** The Shift by Theresa Brown


I had loved Theresa Brown’s other book, Critical Care, as well as her newspaper columns, and I was somewhat disappointed by The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients’ Lives, which claims to retell a single shift, and perhaps there was such a shift once, but it feels staged, somehow, as a careful composite. Still, the story oozes with realistic description: of the locker room where she leaves her bike shoes so her hospital shoes and their germs never pollute her house, of the idiotic patient-tracking systems that were not designed with busy nurses in mind, and of the strange power relationships between doctors and nurses. This is not a particularly hopeful book, and not only because it takes place in an oncology unit: the health care system appears as disjointed as it is in reality, with obvious consequences for the patients and their families. But to have a nurse like her by one’s side…  That’s the hope!

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