Theresa Brown's new book The Shift (Algonquin Books, 2015) is available now.

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“Compelling and compassionate human drama. If you want to understand how modern medicine ticks, fasten your seat belt and spend a day in the hospital with Theresa Brown on The Shift.” —Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, author of What Doctors Feel

A gripping story unfolds in real time as practicing nurse and New York Times columnist Theresa Brown reveals the individual struggles as well as the larger truths about medicine in this country. She lets us experience all the life that happens in just one day in a busy teaching hospital’s oncology ward. In the span of twelve hours, lives can be lost, life-altering treatment decisions made, and dreams fulfilled or irrevocably stolen. Every day, Theresa Brown holds these lives in her hands. On this day there are four.

There is Mr. Hampton, a patient with lymphoma to whom Brown is charged with administering a powerful drug that could cure him–or kill him; Sheila, who may have been dangerously misdiagnosed; Candace, a returning patient who arrives (perhaps advisedly) with her own disinfectant wipes, cleansing rituals, and demands; and Dorothy, who after six weeks in the hospital may finally go home. Prioritizing and ministering to their needs takes the kind of skill, sensitivity, and, yes, humor that enable a nurse to be a patient’s most ardent advocate in a medical system marked by heartbreaking dysfunction as well as miraculous successes.

This remarkable book does for nurses what writers such as Atul Gawande and Abraham Verghese have done for doctors, and at shift’s end, we have learned something profound about hope and healing.


Theresa Brown's book Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between (HarperStudio, 2010) is available at your favorite book store or on-line retailer.

Among all the recent books on medicine, Critical Care stands alone. It is a beautifully written account of a nurse’s first year on the wards, a medical memoir that combines lyricism and compassion with searing honesty and well-timed laugh-out-loud wit. What Theresa Brown has managed to do with her book is precisely what the best of nurses do with their patients – focus always on the heart of what matters. I loved this book.
— Pauline Chen, M.D., author of Final Exam
If Theresa Brown tends her patients as well as she tells her story, they are lucky patients indeed. This absorbing dispatch from the front lines of medical care captures the daily travails and triumphs of nursing with humor, compassion, and sometimes terrifying immediacy.
— Lisa Salomon, author of Hospital and The Devil's Candy
A must read for anyone who wants to understand health care. This extraordinary book will open your eyes to the reality of nursing. If you or your loved one ends up in the hospital, you’ll wish you had someone like Nurse Brown at your side.
— Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Senior Medical Correspondent
CRITICAL CARE is a gift from an English-teacher-turned-nurse who writes from a deeply human context about her first year in a hospital oncology ward. Nurse Theresa Brown has given us a book of stirring stories about how we live, care for the sick, and die. Fasten your set belts and get ready for a memorable read.
— Richard M. Cohen, author of Blindsided and Strong at the Broken Places