Always On Call

Adventures in Nursing, Ranching, and Rural Living

By (author): Marion McKinnon Crook
ISBN 9781772034691
Softcover | Publication Date: April 2, 2024
Book Dimensions: 6 in. x 9 in.
272 Pages
$26.95 CAD
E-Book Price: $13.99 CAD

About the Book

In the long-awaited sequel to Always Pack a Candle, intrepid public health nurse Marion Crook juggles marriage, children, and a vast array of patients and cases in rural British Columbia in the 1970s.

It has been over a decade since Marion Crook arrived in the Cariboo for her first job out of nursing school. The vast rural territory that once left her awestruck now feels like home, as she embraces life on the ranch with her husband, Carl, three young children, and numerous farm animals. But things are far from idyllic.

Overseeing a small staff of irrepressible nurses serving a public health district the size of a small country brings new challenges every day. From runaway patients and needle-phobic hockey players to cultural misunderstandings and heartbreaking cases of abuse and neglect, Marion never knows what is coming next. The 1970s bring signs of social progress as women gain more autonomy and the region grows more culturally diverse. Yet, old prejudices persist, and Marion must fight for her patients, as well as for her adopted son.

Recounted with warmth, compassion, and riveting detail, Always On Call is a fascinating portrait of the hectic life of a rural nurse and highlights the importance of the helping professions.

About the Author(s)

Marion McKinnon Crook is a nurse, an educator, and the author of more than twenty-five books, including the bestselling Always Pack a Candle, which won the BC Historical Federation's Community History Book Award. In addition to her nursing degree, McKinnon Crook holds a master's in liberal studies and a PhD in education. Now a full-time writer, she also writes the British Book Tour mystery series under the name of Emma Dakin. She lives on the Sunshine Coast in BC. For more information, visit


“Caring, kind, and funny, the indomitable Marion McKinnon Crook returns with a heartfelt memoir, reminding us that we all need comfort, understanding, and the courage to rip the band-aids off old fears and prejudices.”
—Kathryn Willcock, author of Up the Coast: One Family’s Wild Life in the Forests of British Columbia
“Nursing adventures at their best, stories of fierce independence, bravery, skill, and dedication. This book will make you wish you were a nurse or, if you are one, grateful for what we are able to offer individuals and communities.”
—Tilda Shalof, author of A Nurse’s Story: Life, Death, and In Between in an Intensive Care Unit
Always on Call chronicles the heartwarming, extraordinary care of rural homecare nurses while balancing the demands of raising families, managing rural ranches, and being part of their community. Marion draws the reader into her world: bumping down isolated roads to visit young mothers, chasing down infectious disease contacts where everyone knows everyone’s business, finding ways to encourage a recluse man to shower, and managing two bickering elderly women with dementia in their own apartment—giving insight into this important aspect of healthcare.”
—Heather Patterson MD, Emergency Physician, award-winning photographer and author of Shadows and Light: A Physician’s Lens on COVID
“Clear compelling prose shines with compassion and intelligence that inform the author’s life as a young mother and public health nurse. Set in a beautiful and challenging part of rural British Columbia, Always On Call reads like a thoughtful, honest conversation with a trusted friend whose rich experiences educate, amuse, and inspire.”
—Leslie A. Davidson, author of Dancing in Small Spaces: One Couple’s Journey with Parkinson’s Disease and Lewy Body Dementia
“What do mischievous runaway piglets have to do with nursing? Read Marion Crook’s brilliant memoir on life as a community nurse, wife, mother, and rancher to find out. Within her fascinating stories and poetic descriptions are meaningful glimpses into a wholesome yet relevant past.”
—Cathalynn Labonté-Smith, author of Rescue Me: Behind the Scenes of Search and Rescue
“A thoughtful and engaging tribute to the intrepid women who delivered rural healthcare. The demanding geography and bureaucracy, over-stuffed schedules, and under-stuffed pay packets, as well as the racism, misogyny, and intolerance they faced is conveyed with humour and empathy. Thank goodness for public health nurses like Marion McKinnon Crook.”
—Jennifer L. Butler, author of Boom & Bust: The Resilient Women of Historic Telegraph Cove
“As a nurse whose career was mainly in an enormous tertiary hospital in a major city, this book is a window into an unfamiliar field of nursing. Marion McKinnon Crook’s stories are an inspiring and fascinating look into a community nurse’s professional and personal life in a remote Canadian community. For anyone who is interested in how health care was delivered in small northern communities, this is a great read.”
—Carol Youngson, Retired Nurse and author of Take your Baby and Run