Saturday, March 6, 2010

Critical Care

Amazon Product Description. At my job, people die, writes Theresa Brown, capturing both the burden and the singular importance of her profession. "Critical Care" chronicles Brown, a former English Professor at Tufts University, on her first year as an RN in medical oncology and the emotional ups and downs she encounters in caring for strangers. In contrast to other medical memoirs that highlight the work of doctors, this book focuses on the critical role played by nurses as health care providers. Brown walks readers through the rigours of chemotherapy, reveals the odd things that can happen to people's bodies in hospitals, and throws in some humour with her chapter titled, Doctors Don't Do Poop. During her first year on the hospital floor, Brown is seriously injured but her recovery allows her to take a new perspective on the health care system, giving her a better understanding of the challenges faced by her patients. Ultimately, "Critical Care" conveys the message of learning to embrace life in times of health and sickness. The antidote to death, Brown says, is life. Brown writes powerfully and honestly about her experiences, shedding light on the issues of mortality and meaning in our lives.

Countless books, movies and television dramas have been devoted to the lives of doctors, but what about those unsung heroes: nurses? Nurses provide the vast majority of patient care: from administering treatment to monitoring vitals to cleaning up accidents to counseling patients and patient advocacy. Still little is known about the professional lives of these vital medical providers.

Stepping into this void is nurse-author Theresa Brown in Critical Care who documents her first year as a R.N. in the oncology ward of a large teaching hospital. Brown, a former Tufts University English professor, is better equipped than most to share the real day to day lives of modern nurses. Brown explains her mid-life career change from the ivy walls of academia to the stressed halls of the nursing floor as a choice for a more chaotic, but meaningful professional life.

Critical Care is a beautifully written insider’s account of what really happens at a present-day hospital. And the truth is somewhere between the gloried angels of Marcus Welby and the pill-popping antics of Nurse Jackie. Some nurses pull rank and wield authority like a weapon. Some nurses help their colleagues and bond over cups of coffee. Some physicians expect to be treated like demi-gods. Some physicians treat the nurses and their patients with respect. Some patients and their families harangue their caregivers. Some patients praise their nurses as “angels.” Every story is, however, compelling.

As Brown confesses:

Anyone hearing a true nursing story will not want to believe it. The level of vulnerability, dependence, and fear experienced by patients in the hospital remains far outside the realm of normal, everyday life, and none of us want to imagine ourselves in that position. But people find themselves there, regardless, and they find nurses there too. Doctors don’t do poop; they’re concerned with other things. That’s OK, but it’s a difference between the two jobs. Probably they don’t do Bibles either. But nurses have to get to the heart of the matter, whatever that may be.

Getting to the heart of the matter – whether it is finding a Bible for a patient or listening to a few Bruce Springsteen songs with a patient – is what Critical Care does best!

Publisher: HarperStudio (June 1, 2010), 208 pages.
Advance Review Copy Provided Courtesy of the Publisher.


  1. I requested a copy of this book from the publisher and received it today. I'm looking forward to reading it and writing a review. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it! My daughter is a RN and her stories are just astounding.

  2. I bet my mother would love this book. She worked as a nurse for years and shared lots of stories with us, so I've always known that nurses are really the unsung heroes of medical care.

  3. Thank you so much for this enthusiastic review of my book, Critical Care. My hope, of course, is that I have a wide readership, but if nurses think it speaks to them then I will feel like I did a good job.
    All my best,
    Theresa Brown