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.
So Nurse’s Week is May 6-12. I read this book in honor of Nurse’s Week. And I just love nursing memoirs. It reminds me why I became a nurse, because it’s so easy to forget sometimes.
This follows Theresa Brown, RN through one of her shifts. Just 12 hours. Parts of it my soul remembered, and reminded me why I now have a desk job. Parts of it my soul remembered in a good way, and made me miss patient care. I loved growing close to patients and feeling like I made a difference. I wasn’t as excited about the difficult patients, though.
Theresa works on an oncology ward – cancer and blood diseases. When I was a nurse, I worked medical-surgical (medical illnesses and some surgery post-op). We were right next door to the oncology unit, so I got pulled there frequently. The nurses over there always had the best attitudes and were so friendly, which surprised me since they dealt with cancer daily.
There were some major differences, though. Theresa talks about having four patients and being overwhelmed. If I had four patients, my day was going good, but it would probably go to shit. I routinely had 5-6 patients. Sometimes SEVEN. SEVEN PATIENTS to ONE ME. There is no time to adequately assess seven patients. Theresa talks about her struggles with four. On that note, did you know California is the ONLY STATE with SAFE nurse/patient ratios? Yeah. When you think your nurse doesn’t care, maybe she doesn’t. Or she may have 7 people she’s trying to keep alive for 12 hours. NEWSFLASH – If you want better nursing care, we all have to fight for safer nurse/patient ratios, whether you are in healthcare or not. It could be you laying in that bed one day. Would you want your nurse to be looking after you and three others, or you and six others? Yeah, I’ll let you think on that.
Ugh, sorry for that rant. That’s why I left bedside nursing. I currently am in love with my job. But I know I’ll never go back bedside unless safe ratios are established.
Back to the book. Theresa talks about feelings of inadequacy as a nurse. I should have done that sooner. I should have picked up on that. Is there something wrong here, or am I just freaking out? Nursing is STRESSFUL yall. We are the eyes and ears for the doc. The doctor sees them for 5 minutes. We see them for 12 hours. It’s up to us to pick up on anything and everything.
This was such a great read. If you want to know what nurses really do, please read this book. It’s such a realistic view into a day in the life. A life we all chose. A life some regret choosing. It’s hard. It’s emotionally draining. But sometimes, its the most rewarding profession in the world.