Sunday, October 11, 2015

Review: The Shift

About the Book:
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.

My Comments:
Back when I was in high school I wanted to be a nurse.  I read a bunch of nurse romance novels, nurse mystery novels and was sure I was going to be a nurse--until I took and hated high school chemistry.  Now, as a paralegal, I make my living reading medical records.  I found it interesting to contrast those nurse novels of thirty some odd years ago with the stories of what really happens in a hospital of today.  I was also interesting to see that the nurse creating those hundreds of pages that land on my desk doesn't like them any better than I do.  For those unfamiliar with electronic medical records, they have about tripled the size of the average record we get from hospitals--and yet from my standpoint (I work car accident cases, not medical malpractice) they don't contain any more information.  

Theresa Brown has a Ph.D. in English and switched careers from academia to nursing.  Her old career shows up in the book as quotes from poets and other writings.  It also shows up in the writing itself--it is clear, engrossing and fast-paced.  I could feel Brown's fatigue at the end of her 12 hour shift.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via Edelweiss.  Grade:  B+

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