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In a book as eye-opening as it is riveting, practicing nurse and New York Times columnist Theresa Brown invites us to experience not just a day in the life of a nurse but all the life that happens in just one day on a hospital’s cancer ward. In the span of twelve hours, lives can be lost, life-altering medical treatment decisions made, and dreams fulfilled or irrevocably s In a book as eye-opening as it is riveting, practicing nurse and New York Times columnist Theresa Brown invites us to experience not just a day in the life of a nurse but all the life that happens in just one day on a hospital’s cancer ward. In the span of twelve hours, lives can be lost, life-altering medical treatment decisions made, and dreams fulfilled or irrevocably stolen. In Brown’s skilled hands--as both a dedicated nurse and an insightful chronicler of events--we are given an unprecedented view into the individual struggles as well as the larger truths about medicine in this country, and by shift’s end, we have witnessed something profound about hope and healing and humanity. Every day, Theresa Brown holds patients' 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 success.  


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In a book as eye-opening as it is riveting, practicing nurse and New York Times columnist Theresa Brown invites us to experience not just a day in the life of a nurse but all the life that happens in just one day on a hospital’s cancer ward. In the span of twelve hours, lives can be lost, life-altering medical treatment decisions made, and dreams fulfilled or irrevocably s In a book as eye-opening as it is riveting, practicing nurse and New York Times columnist Theresa Brown invites us to experience not just a day in the life of a nurse but all the life that happens in just one day on a hospital’s cancer ward. In the span of twelve hours, lives can be lost, life-altering medical treatment decisions made, and dreams fulfilled or irrevocably stolen. In Brown’s skilled hands--as both a dedicated nurse and an insightful chronicler of events--we are given an unprecedented view into the individual struggles as well as the larger truths about medicine in this country, and by shift’s end, we have witnessed something profound about hope and healing and humanity. Every day, Theresa Brown holds patients' 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 success.  

30 review for The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients' Lives

  1. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Where would we be without Nurses in our hospitals? Those wonderful, dedicated caregivers who take time to not only change dressings and deal out pills but to give comfort and solace in difficult times. In this book, Theresa Brown tells us what it’s really like to be a nurse on the ward of a busy American hospital and how difficult it is to find time to give each patient the care and consideration they need. Theresa works on a cancer ward for lymphoma and leukemia patients including those who have Where would we be without Nurses in our hospitals? Those wonderful, dedicated caregivers who take time to not only change dressings and deal out pills but to give comfort and solace in difficult times. In this book, Theresa Brown tells us what it’s really like to be a nurse on the ward of a busy American hospital and how difficult it is to find time to give each patient the care and consideration they need. Theresa works on a cancer ward for lymphoma and leukemia patients including those who have come in for bone marrow transplants. These are often the very sickest patients for whom all other treatments have failed. They can be fragile in body and spirit and require intensive nursing. Theresa’s shifts are twelve hours long, often without a break. Even though they are allocated a thirty minute unpaid lunch break, most don’t get a chance to take it and if they’re lucky grab a quick snack or cup of coffee to keep them going. How they can keep doing it day after day without burning out is hard to imagine. Theresa, a mother of three with a PhD in English and a job teaching at Tufts University made the unusual decision to retrain as a nurse after her third child was born. She clearly loves her new vocation, even though her days are long, demanding and exhausting. In this book she takes us through a typical shift on her ward describing the care and treatment of the four cancer patients assigned to her that day. Four patients may not sound like many but with these very sick patients there is always something to be done, whether it be observations, dishing out pills, setting up drips, organizing scans and tests, giving them comfort and company. And then there is the paperwork, so much paperwork with everything done to or for the patient recorded on the computer system. At times the amount of work sounds overwhelming but the nurses stay calm and cope. There are also the unscheduled crises – the patient who suddenly crashes and needs CPR as well as the demanding patient who is shouting for attention but is usually just scared and needy. There are also the patients who are just too sick to treat anymore and are moved on to hospices and there are the relatives to deal with, also scared and frightened and needing a kind voice and calming presence. Told in a clear voice with great empathy as well as humour, Theresa Brown has given us a truly inspiring insight into the work of the modern nurse. With thanks to Netgalley and the Publishers for an ecopy of this book to read and review

  2. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    A valuable insight into the rollercoaster career of nursing. I enjoyed this medical memoir detailing oncology nurse Teresa over the course of just one shift, the highs and lows. As a nurse myself, albeit across the pond, it was interesting to see how care patterns differ and how patients interact with their caregivers in the US. There are several noted differences, chiefly with regard to how patients without access to free healthcare receive the best of what medical science has to offer - at a c A valuable insight into the rollercoaster career of nursing. I enjoyed this medical memoir detailing oncology nurse Teresa over the course of just one shift, the highs and lows. As a nurse myself, albeit across the pond, it was interesting to see how care patterns differ and how patients interact with their caregivers in the US. There are several noted differences, chiefly with regard to how patients without access to free healthcare receive the best of what medical science has to offer - at a cost. It's clear how much Teresa values her work and enjoys her position as an oncology haematology nurse. Having decided on a career change from teaching English to saving lives, Teresa demonstrates many of the frustrations I could empathise with. It's not all negative though as she does document positive interactions with patients and staff colleagues alike. In my nursing career much of my daily working life has been spent with healthcare assistants, or nurses aides as they are called in this book. The author mentions her aides one or twice but I would have liked to have seen more emphasis placed on their valuable and important role. Otherwise, this was an enjoyable read and a welcome break from the many surgical memoirs authored by doctors currently on the market.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Mills

    As a nurse I had high expectations for this book. I did not find it very interesting. It went into minute detail where I did not need any explanation whatsoever. This book is only a very small window into part of what a nurse’s day could be like. Nurses go without eating when they should eat. They go without going to the bathroom when ordinarily they would go. There are demands from supervisors to discharge patients ASAP so a new patient can be admitted ASAP. Massive amounts of medications have As a nurse I had high expectations for this book. I did not find it very interesting. It went into minute detail where I did not need any explanation whatsoever. This book is only a very small window into part of what a nurse’s day could be like. Nurses go without eating when they should eat. They go without going to the bathroom when ordinarily they would go. There are demands from supervisors to discharge patients ASAP so a new patient can be admitted ASAP. Massive amounts of medications have to be given and they are timed. Documentation is essential. If anything goes wrong the documentation will provide a record of why what was done was done. Some days are easy and some days it’s like the nurse doesn’t know how they will survive and keep their patients safe let alone get a dinner tray for room 322, speak to the family in room 312 and get pain medication for the patient in room 300 as needed for his severe pain. It goes on and on. I could write a book myself. This book doesn’t cover it. It doesn’t provide a realistic look at nursing. At least not in my experience. Nursing is not boring. This book was boring. Patients are fascinating. Their illnesses are fascinating and how the patient and their families navigate through their illnesses and challenges is so unique and at times can be inspiring and at times disappointing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    This would be an illuminating book for any person who has some desire to possibly do RN-BSN hospital nursing. It's not unusual to do 12 hour shifts, usually 3 or 4 per week. It's well written, ironically she came to nursing later after children and had already taught with a Phd in English. Both sides of the brain for Theresa. She's mid-forties when she writes this 12 hour shift minute by minute. She has 4 patients at one time. Departure for one, but intake day for another. It's on an oncology wa This would be an illuminating book for any person who has some desire to possibly do RN-BSN hospital nursing. It's not unusual to do 12 hour shifts, usually 3 or 4 per week. It's well written, ironically she came to nursing later after children and had already taught with a Phd in English. Both sides of the brain for Theresa. She's mid-forties when she writes this 12 hour shift minute by minute. She has 4 patients at one time. Departure for one, but intake day for another. It's on an oncology ward. Very real. That she gave immense movement to movement detailing for flushing ports of different kinds and the administration of a pain killer narcotic by syringe- all of the particulars, that was 5 star. For medical personal it might seem elementary childish in read, but I think it partakes of the pull even within precise hand or body movement "time". The phone rings regardless. The call button sounds for both the more lighter or the most tragic situations- but regardless it is a withdrawal from "other" to get to it. Excellent. I can't say I was in love with her appraisals or a few times too, her value judgments, but I do understand her fulfillment quotient. But it truly does give you the flavor of both the bridges needed to cross, as well as the high levels of context knowledge that has to be nearly immediate in nature. Not just to notice, but to react.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mmars

    I have been in the care of nurses whose days mirrored those in this book and I grew to appreciate them in a way I never would have otherwise. Theresa Brown takes readers step-by-step through her day from home to hospital to home again. This sounds rather idyllic and mundane but is instead filled with constant stresses and demands. I witnessed first-hand the endless beeper calls and inability to find enough time to eat a decent meal or ever sit back and relax during day and evening shifts. Plus, I have been in the care of nurses whose days mirrored those in this book and I grew to appreciate them in a way I never would have otherwise. Theresa Brown takes readers step-by-step through her day from home to hospital to home again. This sounds rather idyllic and mundane but is instead filled with constant stresses and demands. I witnessed first-hand the endless beeper calls and inability to find enough time to eat a decent meal or ever sit back and relax during day and evening shifts. Plus, patient needs were constantly being prioritized and medicines needed to be done on schedule. Not even to mention the physical demands of the job. Or, as so well pointed out in this book, coping with the personalities and demands of various patients. Patient in 1A has no idea of the conditions and needs of patient in 1B. They only know of their own concerns, which will often seem of the most importance. I found it a well-written and compelling portrayal of a dedicated nurse’s day. Something I hope readers of this article will never have to observe first-hand as a patient. But if you are ever in that situation and have read this book, hopefully it will give you a degree of compassion for the caregiver. Because most of them do care and do try to do their best.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    3.5 stars, but rounded up because it was a great look at a day in the life of a nurse. There was just too much repetition & nurses were shined to perfection. She never lost her empathy nor did any of the staff have a bad moment. Not unexpected when she's working in the field & writing about her colleagues, even if some are composites & all have fictitious names. Still, I've spent enough time in hospitals & with nurses (several are in the family) to know just how human they are. I almost took a s 3.5 stars, but rounded up because it was a great look at a day in the life of a nurse. There was just too much repetition & nurses were shined to perfection. She never lost her empathy nor did any of the staff have a bad moment. Not unexpected when she's working in the field & writing about her colleagues, even if some are composites & all have fictitious names. Still, I've spent enough time in hospitals & with nurses (several are in the family) to know just how human they are. I almost took a star off for it. It's a terribly hard job & she captures all the frustrations well. Patients are not at their best, to put it mildly. I know I'm cranky as hell when I'm feeling sick. It's miserable & I don't know when I'll get better. Her patients are facing chemo, cancer, & often age, a far worse combination. She's dealing with overworked & stressed staff, not to mention mountains of 'paper' work via checklists on a computer screen designed by nerds & management who have no clue what she really does. It was interesting to see this side of Atul Gawande's The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. She mentions him by name & I gave the book a 5 star review, but his perspective and hers are at odds & I can see why. If nothing else, this is for anyone who sees or interacts with a nurse. That's you, me, & everyone else. We should read this so we have some inkling of what they have to deal with. Just the 12 hour shift would be enough to make me quit.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Theresa Brown has a PhD in English, and had been teaching college English at Tufts University. After her children were born, she decided to change careers so she enrolled in university where she received a degree in nursing! In The Shift, Theresa gives the reader a glimpse of her work with patients and staff in the oncology ward at a busy Pittsburgh hospital. During her twelve hour shift, she is assigned to provide and maintain care for four patients. This may not sound like a heavy schedule, but Theresa Brown has a PhD in English, and had been teaching college English at Tufts University. After her children were born, she decided to change careers so she enrolled in university where she received a degree in nursing! In The Shift, Theresa gives the reader a glimpse of her work with patients and staff in the oncology ward at a busy Pittsburgh hospital. During her twelve hour shift, she is assigned to provide and maintain care for four patients. This may not sound like a heavy schedule, but as the time progresses, the reader learns about the challenges faced by staff who are required to make life and death decisions related to patient care. Administering medications, checking vital signs, preparing patients for surgery, filling out required paperwork, assisting with patient discharge and admission, addressing patient and family concerns, while at the same time trying to maintain one’s own feelings of empathy and compassion are all part of the day’s challenges. In addition, nurses must work with “teams” that are assigned to each patient. Nurses must consult with attending doctors, fellows, residents, interns, physician’s assistants, and nurse practitioners, who work together to provide skilled care in order to achieve the best possible outcome for their patients. Readers of this memoir will come away with a new appreciation for the painstaking work performed by the medical staff at hospitals.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Somebody, or the Internet, whichever, told me about this book. But...it is not very good. It is hard to imagine how a book about a hospital, where there are millions of life or death decisions made every day, could be boring. It is also hard to imagine that a book written by a NYT columnist could be poorly written. Unfortunately both of these things are true. It is boring, and not particularly well written. I did gain somewhat of a new sympathy for how busy nurses are and an understanding of why Somebody, or the Internet, whichever, told me about this book. But...it is not very good. It is hard to imagine how a book about a hospital, where there are millions of life or death decisions made every day, could be boring. It is also hard to imagine that a book written by a NYT columnist could be poorly written. Unfortunately both of these things are true. It is boring, and not particularly well written. I did gain somewhat of a new sympathy for how busy nurses are and an understanding of why it takes so long for them to show up when you push the call button or for other minor things to get done. Mostly it seems to be the fault of shitty technology and paperwork. So maybe we can get some of those startup dudes in San Francisco working on "Uber for cats" or whatever to fix hospitals too.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Barbara (The Bibliophage)

    Full review at TheBibliophage.com I read The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients Lives by Theresa Brown, RN as an audiobook. I love listening to memoirs, since it feels like I'm having a long, albeit one-sided, conversation with a new friend. This is a peek into one oncology nurse's life, via one particular shift. It happens that Brown also has a Ph.D. in English, and that certainly informs the quality of writing. Brown includes poetry, philosophy, books and their authors, while telling Full review at TheBibliophage.com I read The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients Lives by Theresa Brown, RN as an audiobook. I love listening to memoirs, since it feels like I'm having a long, albeit one-sided, conversation with a new friend. This is a peek into one oncology nurse's life, via one particular shift. It happens that Brown also has a Ph.D. in English, and that certainly informs the quality of writing. Brown includes poetry, philosophy, books and their authors, while telling her story in a measured and calm manner. Her writing style is calm, but the life of an oncology nurse certainly isn't. Brown does a terrific job of letting the reader insider her head. The Shift gives the lay person a valuable perspective of a medical caregivers' moment-by-moment balancing act.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Seifert

    I gave up 75 pages in. The story was too meandering for me. I understand this is more or less the nature of nursing, but the narration just didn't hold my interest. It was also a difficult read for all of the characters and medical information that was being thrown at me so quickly. The tone was also a bit too peppy and optimistic for my tastes. I'm sure she's a great nurse, but she's not my kind of storyteller. I gave up 75 pages in. The story was too meandering for me. I understand this is more or less the nature of nursing, but the narration just didn't hold my interest. It was also a difficult read for all of the characters and medical information that was being thrown at me so quickly. The tone was also a bit too peppy and optimistic for my tastes. I'm sure she's a great nurse, but she's not my kind of storyteller.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Taryn

    "If we could know the future our jobs would be a lot easier." 3.5 Stars.* A detailed and exhausting account of one nurse's twelve-hour shift on a hospital's hematology/oncology floor. Medical memoirs are a favorite genre of mine and I enjoyed it! If I sound the alarm and the patient is OK, then I over-reacted and have untrustworthy clinical judgment. If I don't call in the calvary when it's needed, then I'm negligent and unsafe for patients. You don't always know because what goes on inside "If we could know the future our jobs would be a lot easier." 3.5 Stars.* A detailed and exhausting account of one nurse's twelve-hour shift on a hospital's hematology/oncology floor. Medical memoirs are a favorite genre of mine and I enjoyed it! If I sound the alarm and the patient is OK, then I over-reacted and have untrustworthy clinical judgment. If I don't call in the calvary when it's needed, then I'm negligent and unsafe for patients. You don't always know because what goes on inside human bodies can be hidden and subtle. This job would be easier if there weren't such a narrow divide between being the canary in the coal mine and Chicken Little. Over the twelve-hour shift, Brown is responsible for four patients. Four patients don't sound like many at first, but the stakes are high and there are multiple tasks to juggle per patient. Her patients are immunocompromised, so a number of extra precautions have to be taken during each task to keep them safe from invisible dangers. We spend time with these four patients: • Dorothy - A woman in her 50s with a positive attitude. She is being treated for leukemia and is waiting for her lab work to return to normal so she can be discharged after a six-week stay. • Richard - A fragile lymphoma patient in his late 70s, who has just been prescribed an extremely toxic chemo drug that demands constant supervision while being administered. • Sheila - A woman in her mid-40s with antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, a blood clotting disorder. She is experiencing mysterious abdominal pain. • Candace - A difficult (or empowered, depending on your perspective) cancer patient in her early-40s, who is scheduled to receive a transplant of her own cells. In the book's disclaimer the author notes that while these stories are true, specific details have been changed to protect patient and staff confidentiality. In some cases, composites are used. While she is unable to give us updates on patients after they leave the hospital, we do get enough of a conclusion for the aforementioned patients. I watch the intern walk down the hall, slightly stopped, as if he bears the weight of the world on his shoulders. But it is I who will give Mr. Hampton his Rituxan, who will monitor him for serious changes in blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing, who will need to call this intern, or his replacement, if the treatment intended to heal ends up hurting instead. The intern doesn't know this drug as well as I do. The intern won't be the person hooking it up to Mr. Hampton's IV, watching it run down the plastic tubing directly into his vein, knowing that if things go badly, it will be result of the work of my own hands. Brown walks us step-by-step through many procedures and consistently explains terms that the reader is probably not be familar with. If you aren't already interested in the medical field, this book might feel tedious at times. There are repetitive procedures and tons of paperwork. By the end, I felt like I could administer Dilaudid! The repetition gives an accurate view of a shift and also added to the stress. In the middle of all these scheduled, routine tasks that involved many sub-tasks, there was a constant flow of unexpected issues. I got so anxious during the multiple interruptions that occurred while trying to discharge a patient. Brown had an ongoing to-do list running in her mind and the tasks had to constantly be reprioritized as more pressing events arose. For every item Brown marked off the to-do list, about ten items got added! A number of jobs required verifications from multiple people, which means the nurses have duties beyond their own patient load. The more patients an individual nurse cares for, the smaller amount of TLC per patient. More significantly, research on staffing levels has made it pretty clear that the more patients a nurse has above a certain number (the number itself depends on the patient population and how sick the patients are), the larger the likelihood a patient will die who wouldn't have otherwise. In other words, nurse-to-patient ratios aren't just about patients feeling cared for; they're also about fragile people staying alive. Besides the patients, my favorite parts were Theresa Brown's insights into problems with the way care is managed at hospitals. I wish there was more time spent on these topics. Theresa airs her frustrations with a system that doesn't allow her to spend as much time with a patient as she would like. She always wanted to do more for them, but time constraints and the hospital's bottom line didn't allow it most of the time. She addresses the lack of emotional care for patients, hospital hierarchy, practitioner fatigue, the overcomplicating of processes in the name of safety and excessive workload. Though she gets frustrated, Brown loves her job and shows remarkable empathy for her patients and colleagues. In one chapter, she notices that she treats the escort in a way that she complained about a doctor treating her earlier. She realizes that everyone has a lot to do and maybe they are all doing the best they can to get through the day and keep their patients alive. As force from the syringe makes blood swirl into the saline I stop and watch it billow like silk. Red. Beautiful. I never gave blood too much though before I took this job, but now I revere it. Blood is the liquid of life. Red cells give oxygen, platelets form clots, and white cells protect us from infection. Without healthy blood humans cannot live. Because the author was an English major before changing careers, the language occasionally becomes poetic. This leads to some distracting figurative language and excessive literary references. ("Changing the bandages on his dying toes caused a shadow of pain to fall over his face, like the moon covering the sun during an eclipse.") While it did make the work feel more human, it was jarring to shift from routine, "day-in-the-life" language to emotional language. I had doubts that the author could maintain my interest with such a tight focus, but I enjoyed the whole book. We are all likely to be patients at some point, so this is a useful read for everyone. "There will come a time when each of us will need a clean, well lighted place that stays open all day and night, offering shelter from life's storms." It certainly will make me more patient! If you liked this book, you might also like The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician's First Year. In all the hurly-burly, I'd forgotten, but now I remember: The most important thing of all is that everyone's alive at the end of the day. *I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Misti

    So I'm feeling like a broken record lately, but this book was disappointing for me. And I'm surprised because I really expected to like it! As an Oncology nurse who has really enjoyed books like this in the past, I thought it would be right up my alley. But unlike those books I read years ago, this one was honestly a little boring. I was expecting drama, blood, sweat, and tears, heart wrenching stress and pain, but what I got was a rote recitation of most of what happened in a 'typical' 12-hour So I'm feeling like a broken record lately, but this book was disappointing for me. And I'm surprised because I really expected to like it! As an Oncology nurse who has really enjoyed books like this in the past, I thought it would be right up my alley. But unlike those books I read years ago, this one was honestly a little boring. I was expecting drama, blood, sweat, and tears, heart wrenching stress and pain, but what I got was a rote recitation of most of what happened in a 'typical' 12-hour shift. I was a little confused what kind of audience this book was targeting. There were times I thought it was written for a medical professional when certain terms and euphemisms were used and then not really explained. But then a boring procedure like the flushing of a central line was explained in tedious step by step detail and I would think the book was more written for a layman. I was also unsure about the experience level of the author. It was probably mentioned and I just missed it, but there were times she came across as an experienced nurse and other times when she really didn't. And the writing style just didn't hold my interest; in the middle of a conversation or an event the author would start philosophizing and that was really distracting for me since I didn't expect to be reading bits of poetry also. It's just difficult to read a book like this where certain things are presented as facts and standards of care when really they are just opinions and the way things are done in a particular hospital. And lastly, it's a bit trite, but it drove me crazy that some drugs were written by their brand name and some by the generic name. Always write the generic name!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ruthanne Johnston

    Wonderful! As a nurse, I moved this book to the top of my "TBR" list as soon as I read the synopsis. Our heroine (and this is non-fiction, btw) is a 45 y.o. RN who lives in PA and rides her bike to her twelve-hour shift! Her patients have had various types of transplant surgeries, including bone marrow and stem cells. You follow her as she cares for as many as four of these critical patients during a typical day. You readily see, despite the stress of the job, the encouragement and compassion she Wonderful! As a nurse, I moved this book to the top of my "TBR" list as soon as I read the synopsis. Our heroine (and this is non-fiction, btw) is a 45 y.o. RN who lives in PA and rides her bike to her twelve-hour shift! Her patients have had various types of transplant surgeries, including bone marrow and stem cells. You follow her as she cares for as many as four of these critical patients during a typical day. You readily see, despite the stress of the job, the encouragement and compassion she brings to her frightened and depressed patients, as well as to her often exhausted co-workers. An admirable and realistic book!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    After reading this, I sure don't ever want to be a nurse. It's like being an air-traffic controller, but people may die on you at any time. I admire her leaving a position at Tufts teaching English literature to go into nursing, but it wouldn't be a decision I could make. The most fun parts of the book are the continuous references to, and quotes from, English literature to describe the situations she finds herself in. More power to her for enduring and even liking the high-tension field of nursi After reading this, I sure don't ever want to be a nurse. It's like being an air-traffic controller, but people may die on you at any time. I admire her leaving a position at Tufts teaching English literature to go into nursing, but it wouldn't be a decision I could make. The most fun parts of the book are the continuous references to, and quotes from, English literature to describe the situations she finds herself in. More power to her for enduring and even liking the high-tension field of nursing.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    a fun, quick, fascinating read--I love hearing details about life in a hospital. And this is FULL of details

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Sciuto

    Theresa Brown's "The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients' Lives" is an engrossing, in your face, well written novel about one nurse's shift working on the oncology ward of a Pittsburg hospital. From the moment the reader enters the hospital, Mrs. Brown makes you feel that you are a witness, a participant, in the never ending struggle to help her patients stay alive. This book is a stark reminder of the real heroes among us. The nurses, doctors, and hospital personnel that deliver care Theresa Brown's "The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients' Lives" is an engrossing, in your face, well written novel about one nurse's shift working on the oncology ward of a Pittsburg hospital. From the moment the reader enters the hospital, Mrs. Brown makes you feel that you are a witness, a participant, in the never ending struggle to help her patients stay alive. This book is a stark reminder of the real heroes among us. The nurses, doctors, and hospital personnel that deliver care, medicines, support, and timely updates that help save lives, keep families together, and to prolong the hopes and dreams of their patients.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    If you ever wanted to know what it’s like to be a nurse - this gives a true in-depth look. I had anxiety just reading it. I don’t think I would be able to multitask like this and remember everything that I needed to do. Thank God for nurses. You are AMAZING.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    Check out this and many other reviews on my blog https://throwmeabook.wordpress.com/20... The Shift is a well written and very readable account of a 12 hour nursing shift in the oncology ward at a busy US teaching hospital. To be more specific, The Shift follows the author, Theresa Brown, a practicing nurse, during one of her typical shifts, trying to balance caring for her cancer patients with compassion and grace with the necessity for meticulous administrative and record keeping duties. Althoug Check out this and many other reviews on my blog https://throwmeabook.wordpress.com/20... The Shift is a well written and very readable account of a 12 hour nursing shift in the oncology ward at a busy US teaching hospital. To be more specific, The Shift follows the author, Theresa Brown, a practicing nurse, during one of her typical shifts, trying to balance caring for her cancer patients with compassion and grace with the necessity for meticulous administrative and record keeping duties. Although based on her true life experiences, the patients and events written about in The Shift are in fact a fusion of the many patients Theresa Brown has cared for over the years. This is in no way meant as a criticism, I only mention it because I find that it adds a certain robustness to her writing, providing wonderful, well-rounded insight into the behind the scenes look of a nurse’s working environment. Theresa Browns writing is fluid and sharp, which gives this non-fiction read a very ‘fiction novel’ feel. It also creates such realistic and vivid scenes that as a reader, I often felt the rush and stress of her job, amazed at the multitasking and prioritizing required, all the while keeping a level head. I don’t know how close her accounts are to those of nurses in the Canadian medical system but one thing is certain: nurses are an indispensible part of the medical system and should be accorded the utmost respect. I give The Shift 3/5 stars.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Daria Marshall

    4.5 stars I absolutely loved reading this. It is clear from the beginning that Theresa cares deeply for her profession and her patients. Nursing can be rough. Things go wrong when you least expect them. People receive the worst news of their life on your watch sometimes, especially when you are on an oncology unit like Theresa. Theresa's thorough walkthrough of her day was fascinating to read. I loved seeing her work through all of the obstacles that came her way. I loved the team aspect of her u 4.5 stars I absolutely loved reading this. It is clear from the beginning that Theresa cares deeply for her profession and her patients. Nursing can be rough. Things go wrong when you least expect them. People receive the worst news of their life on your watch sometimes, especially when you are on an oncology unit like Theresa. Theresa's thorough walkthrough of her day was fascinating to read. I loved seeing her work through all of the obstacles that came her way. I loved the team aspect of her unit and how each of them were each others' support. I just really liked this. I read it right after I found out I had passed my NCLEX and it was just what I needed. I truly hope that one day I can be as dedicated, compassionate, and knowledgeable as Theresa.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This was a fascinating account of a day in the life of a nurse. I admire them so much. I could never do this. I was exhausted just reading about it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Basma

    This was such an interesting and gripping book. I loved learning what goes on in a nurses’ day, what kind of jobs they handle, what’s it like dealing with a patient and interns and resident and doctors, what’s it like working a twelve hour shift and have different patients, all the reporting and the to-do lists, the occasional learning on the spot when there’s something new happening, all the care that the nurses provide and how their patients feel better with a familiar face... and so much more This was such an interesting and gripping book. I loved learning what goes on in a nurses’ day, what kind of jobs they handle, what’s it like dealing with a patient and interns and resident and doctors, what’s it like working a twelve hour shift and have different patients, all the reporting and the to-do lists, the occasional learning on the spot when there’s something new happening, all the care that the nurses provide and how their patients feel better with a familiar face... and so much more. Theresa works as an oncology nurse so it’s not always a happily ever after for her patients. The book provides an afterward so we get to know what happens to her four patients and how she feels with it all and how she has to be ok and not let things overwhelm her so she can continue with her job and offer the best care she can.

  22. 4 out of 5

    David

    This might be a go-to book for anyone interested in learning about a day in the life of an RN at a teaching hospital. It might be a good choice for anyone looking for a well-written and quick read. It has a few particular strengths. Chief among them is her ability to communicate her fears very well: “Like many nurses, the thing I’m always worried about is doing either too much or too little. If I sound an alarm and the patient is OK, then I over-reacted and have untrustworthy clinical judgment. If This might be a go-to book for anyone interested in learning about a day in the life of an RN at a teaching hospital. It might be a good choice for anyone looking for a well-written and quick read. It has a few particular strengths. Chief among them is her ability to communicate her fears very well: “Like many nurses, the thing I’m always worried about is doing either too much or too little. If I sound an alarm and the patient is OK, then I over-reacted and have untrustworthy clinical judgment. If I don’t call in the cavalry when it’s needed, then I’m negligent and unsafe for patients. You don’t always know because what goes on inside human bodies can be hidden and subtle. This job would be easier if there weren’t such a narrow divide between being the canary in the coal mine and Chicken Little.” This is simple, straightforward and relatable. She writes this way often enough to connect with the reader but not so much that it becomes overbearing. I also liked her way of conveying the stress and frustration of trying to juggle multiple tasks at the same time. I actually felt a little edgy and uncomfortable at times. It’s not a feeling I strive for but I appreciate the author’s ability to create such a visceral reaction. The author also does a nice job of explaining medical procedures and introducing interesting tidbits without relying on technical jargon. This is an example I highlighted along the way: “If donated cells differ in blood type from the patient’s own, that person’s blood type will actually change after transplant and engraftment. I used to think blood type was as fixed as eye color or having dimples, but it isn’t. It can change, does change, as a side-effect of the treatment given to save someone’s life.” If I stopped here I’d rate the book 4 stars but this is a 3 star book. The Candace Moore patient was the most obvious composite character I’ve ever encountered. The author seemed to use this patient to plug gaps in the action to create tension out of nowhere, which made her seem like a contrivance. Sort of a deus ex machina in reverse – she was brought in to promote conflict rather than to resolve it. The opening disclaimer says: “To avoid casting aspersions on a particular practice group I made up the incident where a procedure is done only because a patient requests it.” The author is referring to the Candace Moore character and the procedure she’s referring to spanned several chapters. It’s a shame the character was ever introduced into the book and it’s a bigger shame that I have absolutely no idea what the author is saying in the disclaimer I quoted. I’ve read it 10 times and still have no clue what it means. On a personal note I really hate it when people complain about someone else and then try to make it look like they’re taking the high road by saying they shouldn’t complain. The author did this too many times. She’d start in with how someone (a colleague or Candace Moore) was an annoying jerk and then follow it up with some malarkey about how that person was having a difficult time or how deep down they were in the right. That’s a load of BS. Either complain and leave it at that or just don’t mention it. Or at the very least I wish she had said something to the effect of – “My colleague X is under a lot of family pressure and is struggling financially but I have to see I really hate it when he steals narcotics under my sign in. What a complete @#$%^&* @$$#0!% he is. I’m calling the cops right now.” Is that so hard? One more complaint while I’m at it. The author was previously an English professor at Tufts University and the English professor in her tended to creep out from time to time and it felt out of place most times. When I’m reading about the goings on at a hospital I don’t want to read something like this: “Time passed like liquid honey pouring out of a jar, slow and just sweet enough.” Spare the jar and the honey. If she wants to use a bedpan and something else for a metaphor I’ll be more interested. Criticisms aside it’s a good book and a small investment in time. I’d recommend it to almost anyone. My favorite books in a hospital setting are First, Do No Harm by Lisa Belkin and Complications by Atul Gawande. I have no silly criticisms for those two gems.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nanci

    I was interested in reading this book, since our youngest daughter is an RN in the NICU. I have always been in total awe of the immensly important work she does with infants and hoped this book would provide more insight into her daily routine. This book did exactly that and more. Although this nurse took the reader through a day in the hospital on an oncology floor, much of it seemed similar enough in a general manner for me to draw a comparision. The author, Brown, was an English professor bef I was interested in reading this book, since our youngest daughter is an RN in the NICU. I have always been in total awe of the immensly important work she does with infants and hoped this book would provide more insight into her daily routine. This book did exactly that and more. Although this nurse took the reader through a day in the hospital on an oncology floor, much of it seemed similar enough in a general manner for me to draw a comparision. The author, Brown, was an English professor before she became a nurse, so one of the suprises for me was that it was a very well-written book. It read fast, save for the fact that I stopped a number of times to look up definitions. I highly recommend this book whether you're in the profession or not. Chances are someday you, or someone you love, will stay in a hospital and reading this book will help you to clarify and appreciate the very hard work nurses do.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Elisabeth Manley

    I've read a few nursing biographies/memoirs now, and I always manage to find anecdotes that resonate with me regardless of the nurse's specialty. Theresa Brown touches on interesting points of struggle such as the "Doctor-Nurse Game", the difficult social patient, ethical questions balancing truthful practice against policy legalities, and most of all prioritizing which important patient is the MOST important. For me though, the writing could be a bit tedious at times and seemed to he written mo I've read a few nursing biographies/memoirs now, and I always manage to find anecdotes that resonate with me regardless of the nurse's specialty. Theresa Brown touches on interesting points of struggle such as the "Doctor-Nurse Game", the difficult social patient, ethical questions balancing truthful practice against policy legalities, and most of all prioritizing which important patient is the MOST important. For me though, the writing could be a bit tedious at times and seemed to he written more for nob-healthcare readers. Some details were just too much to read multiple times (ie swab the port and flush and swab and check blood return and swab and....).

  25. 5 out of 5

    PJ

    Great book! It reads like a novel but is a true story of a 12 hour shift as a cancer nurse. I'm so glad she gave us an update on all of her patients in the last chapter. I was really invested in their stories and did not want to put the book down. Made me respect nurses even more. Great book! It reads like a novel but is a true story of a 12 hour shift as a cancer nurse. I'm so glad she gave us an update on all of her patients in the last chapter. I was really invested in their stories and did not want to put the book down. Made me respect nurses even more.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Karyl

    3.5 stars The Shift is a fascinating look at what it means to be a nurse in an oncology ward in a hospital. Brown really brings to life one day in her life, working with and for four patients on her floor, plus dealing with the others who work with her, from orderlies and escorts to fellow nurses to doctors and residents and interns. We also see how human and understanding nurses have to be with difficult patients and their families, and how much the struggles of their patients affect them while 3.5 stars The Shift is a fascinating look at what it means to be a nurse in an oncology ward in a hospital. Brown really brings to life one day in her life, working with and for four patients on her floor, plus dealing with the others who work with her, from orderlies and escorts to fellow nurses to doctors and residents and interns. We also see how human and understanding nurses have to be with difficult patients and their families, and how much the struggles of their patients affect them while they're on the floor. But Brown also shows us how she turns off all that worry and concern for her patients once she leaves the floor to go home. It isn't a lack of compassion; instead, she's conserving her compassion and humanity for the patients she'll have tomorrow, next week, next year. Brown does an excellent job of portraying a typical day as a nurse. I felt it was a smart choice to choose one day and stick to that one shift so we can see how difficult and long, yet at times satisfying and rewarding, one twelve-hour shift can be. I also appreciated an update on these four patients in her epilogue, so the reader wouldn't continue to wonder exactly what had happened to these folks we'd gotten to know so well along with Ms. Brown. My only quibble with the book comes from the tendency of Brown to employ overdrawn and overwrought similes and descriptions in some of her passages. But most of her writing is matter-of-fact, yet full of care and compassion. I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to see what it means to be a good nurse or medical professional.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    I was given an electronic copy by Algonquin Books and NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Nurses are a patient's best advocate and author Theresa Brown, RN is no different. Through her words, it is obvious that she cares deeply for her patients and wants to provide the best care possible. Medical conditions and procedures are well explained, in both medical and layman's terms. The author does a great job relaying complex information using real life examples. For instance, she likens the I was given an electronic copy by Algonquin Books and NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Nurses are a patient's best advocate and author Theresa Brown, RN is no different. Through her words, it is obvious that she cares deeply for her patients and wants to provide the best care possible. Medical conditions and procedures are well explained, in both medical and layman's terms. The author does a great job relaying complex information using real life examples. For instance, she likens the effects of sepsis on the body to a garden hose with holes for a sprinkler effect. When the flow of blood diminishes due to low blood pressure, the blood does not profuse to the rest of the body. The daily challenges that nurses face while working in a hospital setting are numerous, but through it all, Theresa Brown maintains her composure and advocates for all of her patients. As being an oncology nurse is her second career, Theresa's choice seems to be out of a true desire to help others. The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients' Lives is a compelling and essential read for those entering in the medical profession, in any capacity.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    Maybe we should get Theresa Brown to run for president. This book slows down time and Theresa Brown shares one of her twelve-hour days as a nurse with us. Four patients doesn't sound like a lot until you consider that you are the person who is in charge of the complete care of four very fragile people. It's a wonderful story and it makes me want to start a Theresa Brown for President campaign. If Brown can work this carefully and thoughtfully and juggle the personalities on the ward, I think she Maybe we should get Theresa Brown to run for president. This book slows down time and Theresa Brown shares one of her twelve-hour days as a nurse with us. Four patients doesn't sound like a lot until you consider that you are the person who is in charge of the complete care of four very fragile people. It's a wonderful story and it makes me want to start a Theresa Brown for President campaign. If Brown can work this carefully and thoughtfully and juggle the personalities on the ward, I think she can run this country.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Theresa Brown describes a typical 12 hour day as a hospital nurse--often harried and overwhelmed but still finding her profession rewarding. Keeping on top of the needs of 4 people sick enough to be hospitalized is a real challenge. My experience with hospitals and nursing is modest, but the book has a real ring of truth about the hour-by-hour duties. It would be a good book for young people to read as they decide what profession would be best for them.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jodi Torske

    DNF. As an RN, I wanted to love this book. But I didn’t. So there’s that. Theresa should stick to nursing. The writing was boring, for a nurse, anyway, and just made me relive the horrors of everything that can go wrong in a 12 hour shift. Non nurses - which she accommodates by explaining EVERY detail- will be completely lost on the truth of what she’s describing. Sorry. But a no go for me. And I don’t DNF ANY BOOK!

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