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Theresa Brown

Bestselling author of THE SHIFT and CRITICAL CARE

There can’t be too many people who both practice nursing and hold a Ph.D. in English, but Theresa Brown is one of them. She has given us a compelling insider’s view of the nursing profession in two books, one about her first year of nursing, and the latest, THE SHIFT, about twelve hours in an oncology ward in a busy teaching hospital. She is a popular speaker on the lecture circuit and also a frequent contributor The New York Times, writing on subjects as diverse as nurse/patient ratios, health care reform, bullying by physicians, and the importance of end of life care. She was recently named a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow, adding the nursing profession to the roster of the distinguished speakers who spend a week on college campuses.

Brown received her B.A. and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Chicago, and taught writing and literature at Harvard, MIT and Tufts. After starting a family, she decided to make a career change, went back to school, and earned a Bachelor of Science in nursing from the University of Pittsburgh. In her first year as an oncology nurse Brown experienced the sudden death of a patient and in an attempt to come to terms with the experience, wrote an essay titled “Perhaps Death is Proud” which was published by the New York Times and led to her first book, Critical Care. Brown became a regular contributor to the popular New York Times “Well” blog, then switched to writing a monthly opinion column called “Bedside.” She continues to write opinion pieces for the New York Times.

In her New York Times bestselling book, THE SHIFT, Brown takes us on rounds where she is responsible for the care and management of four patients on a particular day in the hospital. She shows us what it really takes to be on the human side of a medical institution -- lives can be lost, life-altering treatment decisions made, and dreams fulfilled or irrevocably stolen -- all in the span of twelve hours.

Brown is a commentator in both print and broadcast national media, including, Slate,, The American Journal of Nursing, C-SPAN Book TV, and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She is a leading voice on health care as seen from the nurse’s point of view. She is a board member at the Pittsburgh Jewish HealthCare Foundation and the Center for Health Media and Policy at Hunter College. She has also been involved with two different Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiatives. Brown lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband and three children. She continues to work clinically as a hospice nurse.

Speaking Topics

  • THE SHIFT: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients’ Lives
  • CRITICAL CARE: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between
  • Why I Write: How Reflection and Self-Expression Make Me a Better Nurse
  • Nurses and Doctors: Why We Don’t Get Along and Why We Should
  • Healing our Health Care System: Novel Ideas for Reclaiming Care
  • Nurses Matter: What “The Most Trusted Profession” Means


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