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ISBN: 978-1-61620-602-4

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TRIM SIZE: 5.5 x 8.25

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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

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 busy teaching hospital’s cancer ward.

In the span of twelve hours, lives can be lost, life-altering treatment decisions made, and dreams fulfilled or irrevocably stolen. Unfolding in real time–under the watchful eyes of this dedicated professional and insightful chronicler of events–The Shift gives an unprecedented view into the individual struggles as well as the larger truths about medicine in this country. By shift’s end, we have witnessed something profound about hope and humanity.



"The Shift takes an intimate look at the practice of modern medicine from the point of view of a professional on duty at the patient's bedside. It's an engrossing human drama composed of interlocking stories of patients and their families, doctors and nurses, aides, chaplains, social workers, and others who take care of sick people in a modern-day hospital. The Shift is one nurse's story, but it contains elements of every nurse's experience." –Wall Street Journal

"Brown does an excellent job of taking us moment by moment through her day -- meeting the patients (one difficult, one frail, one possibly dying, one about to go home); the paperwork (endless); the fail-safe procedures (also endless, but clearly important); the workarounds (not always kosher, but sometimes the only way to get things done). skillful at keeping the narrative flowing. The reader feels her affection and deep sense of responsibility for her patients, even the aggravating ones, and her frustration over not being able to give them each the attention she believes they need." Minneapolis Star-Tribune

 “Theresa Brown’s The Shift … should be required reading for all incoming medical and nursing students — or anyone who is a patient or visitor in a hospital. …her story is riveting in the exacting way she recounts the way her day unfolds.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“This riveting account of a day in the life of a highly competent and compassionate but overtaxed bedside nurse provides an up-close, insider’s view from the perspective of one of the worker bees of the medical world. It raises important questions about staffing, shift lengths, various protocols, and the role of touch, empathy, and record keeping in healthcare. If nothing else, The Shift will leave you with a better understanding of why your hospital call button doesn’t always bring a nurse running as quickly as you’d wish. …the living, breathing heart of Brown’s book lies in her vivid, composite profiles of the handful of patients (disguised for privacy) who come under her watch on the day in question, and her enormous concern for them.” –Barnes & Noble Review

“…this meticulous, absorbing shift-in-the-life account of one nurse’s day on a cancer ward stands out for its honesty, clarity, and heart. Brown…juggles the fears, hopes, and realities of a 12-hour shift in a typical urban hospital with remarkable insight and unflagging care. Her memoir is a must-read….” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Meet the Author

Theresa Brown, RN, works as a clinical nurse and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times opinion pages as well as on the Times Opinionator blog. She has also been a contributor to the popular “Well” section of that paper and writes for and other national media.

Brown received her BSN from the University of Pittsburgh and, during what she calls her past life, a PhD in English from the University of Chicago. Before becoming a nurse she taught English at Tufts University.

Today, her focus is medical oncology and end-of-life issues. She lectures nationally, is a board member of the Center for Health Media and Policy at the Bellevue School of Nursing at Hunter College. Brown was a panelist for the TEDMED’s Great Challenges of Health and Medicine initiative and is also involved in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s “Flip the Clinic” initiative and an advisory board member for Scrubs Magazine.

She lives with her husband and three children in Pennsylvania.