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