The Wisdom of Nurses – U of T Nursing Alumni Amie Archibald Varley and Sara Fung champion the impact and legacy of nurses

21 May 2024

The critical impact of nurses across the health care system and the need for nurses to have a voice are two of the essential components within the debut book from University of Toronto alumni Amie Archibald-Varley and Sara Fung.

The Wisdom of Nurses: Stories of Grit from the Front Lines spent five weeks on the Globe and Mail bestseller list, and on May 10, 2024, Archibald-Varley and Fung joined award winning health journalist Carly Weeks to discuss their new book during a special launch event during National Nursing Week celebrations at the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing.

Amie Archibald-Varley (left) with Sara Fung and Carly Weeks during The Wisdom of Nurses Fireside Chat at Bloomberg Nursing. Photo by Horst Herget

The co-authors shared with audience members how they got started in their advocacy work, and how they have built upon the success of their popular podcast series The Gritty Nurse Podcast, to be a voice for nurses in the workforce, and for health care system reform.

“We always say that nurses are great at advocating for their patients, but no so great at advocating for ourselves. No one else is coming to save us. We must be the voices for our profession,” said Archibald-Varley.

The book contains a raw and honest collection of stories from nurses in the workforce including Archibald-Varley and Fung themselves, who share some vulnerable accounts about their experiences of bullying and burnout in the nursing profession.

Audience members during the Q & A session. Photo by Horst Herget

Fung shared that responses to the book so far have been overwhelmingly positive, and not just from nurses, but the public at large.

“That is what we wanted, to make a connection with our readers through these stories and to share with the public that we are not ‘just nurses,’ there is so much more to what we do and our profession,” said Fung.

For nurses who are looking to expand their advocacy work, Fung and Archibald-Varley shared a variety of ways that an individual could get started depending on their comfort level, from letters to MP’s and local government officials, to joining professional organizations and social media advocacy spaces.

“Health care is political,” said Archibald Varley, “and it is important that we bring our voices to together to share when we are concerned and when we see things that need to change in our profession.”

The audience learned that the Hon. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had appeared as a guest on the duo’s podcast earlier in the week to discuss challenges in nursing and share his own experiences of nursing care. It served as a reminder they said, that you never know who is listening to your voice and perspective, and they hope it will serve as further inspiration to nurses to take action.

In line with the title of the book Weeks asked the authors what they felt was their best piece of wisdom.

“Challenge the status-quo,” said Archibald Varley, to which Fung added “There is so much wisdom in nursing, our voices can create change.”

Professor Robyn Stremler, dean of the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing said that when she first learned about this debut book, she knew the Faculty needed to invite them back to their alma mater to gain from their perspectives on leadership and the culture within nursing.

“In reading this book, it is clear to me that Amie and Sara are nurses with grit,” said Stremler, “and they are actively invested in giving voice and recognition to the unsung yet revolutionary nurses who move among us.”