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When a Nurse Becomes a Patient

By Theresa Brown

“Deeply moving.” —Damon Tweedy, New York Times bestselling author of Black Man in a White Coat
New York Times bestselling author Theresa Brown tells a poignant,powerful, and intensely personal story about breast cancer. She brings us along with her from the mammogram that would change her life through her diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Despite her training and years of experience as an oncology and hospice nurse, she finds herself continually surprised by the lack of compassion in the medical maze—just as so many of us have. Why is she expected to wait over a long weekend
to hear the results of her cancer tests if they are ready? Where is the empathy from caregivers? Why is she so often left in the dark about procedures and treatments? At times she’s mad at herself for not speaking up and asking for what she needs but knows that being labeled a “difficult” patient could mean she gets worse care. 
As she did in her book The Shift, Brown draws us into her work with the unforgettable details of her daily life—the needles, the chemo drugs, the rubber gloves, the frustrated patients—but from her new perch as a patient, she also takes a look back with rare candor at some of her own  cases as a nurse and considers what she didn’t know then and what she could have done better. 
A must-read for fans of Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, Suleika Jaouad’s Between Two Kingdoms, and all of us who have tried to find healing through our health-care system.

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Theresa Brown

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Review quotes
Healing is a stunning book that helped me understand how to survive a serious illness and how to understand hospitals in general. Theresa Brown, RN, is also a hell of a good writer.”
James Patterson

“Revealing and heart-wrenching . . . Alternating the narrative between her time as a nurse and as a patient, she passionately shares the range of emotions she felt and offers advice for both patients and nurses who are facing breast cancer . . . By sharing her story, Brown delivers much-needed advocacy for those who are often ignored or misunderstood. An essential read for all members of the medical community.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“This is the book I want to give to all my colleagues and patients—a smart, moving, clear-eyed, yet ultimately hopeful jewel of a read on health and care from one of the most thoughtful healthcare writers I know.”
—Pauline W. Chen, MD, New York Times contributor and bestselling author of Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality

“A deeply moving story of an oncology nurse forced to navigate our imperfect health care system after an ultrasound exam upends her life. Brown offers important lessons for patients and health care providers alike.”
—Damon Tweedy, New York Times bestselling author of Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine

“Healing should be read by everyone, not just those facing cancer. Brown experiences both grief and revelation, and the beauty of her book is that we learn so much about hope and fear and coping, about living and dying and everything in between.”
—Bobbie Berkowitz, PhD, RN, FAAN, Emeritus Dean, Columbia University School of Nursing 
“By relating her own intimate experiences with cancer, Brown provides a candid critique of a system that sometimes fails people when they are most vulnerable. A brave and rare book that advocates for greater compassion in healthcare.”
—Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, FAAN, Dean, University of Virginia School of Nursing
“Riveting and wrenching, Theresa Brown’s memoir takes us into the heart of what it means to be mortal. Examining illness from the inside and the outside, Brown’s sure hand provides a clear-eyed narrative that’s both intimate and harrowing.”
—Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, editor of Bellevue Literary Review and author of When We Do Harm: A Doctor Confronts Medical Error
 “An extraordinary writer, Theresa Brown brings the reader into all of her worlds, showing how cancer affected her as a patient, nurse, mother, daughter, wife, and friend. This is more than a good read. Oops, I am crying again.”
—Claire M. Fagin, PhD, RN, Professor Emerita and Dean Emerita, School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania 
“A compelling and beautiful book. Brown’s personal depth in her narrative and remarkable tie-ins across many facets of history and literature draw the reader in and make it clear how much work we have to do in healthcare to get to reliable, humane practices.”
—Terry Fulmer, PhD, President, John A. Hartford Foundation, former Dean, NYU College of Nursing

Praise for The Shift:
“An engrossing human drama . . . The Shift is one nurse's story, but it contains elements of every nurse's experience." –The Wall Street Journal

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

“Brown does an excellent job of taking us moment by moment through her day . . . keeping the narrative flowing. The reader feels her affection and deep sense of responsibility for her patients." –Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Product Details
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Publication date
April 12, 2022