Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between

CURE, Fall 2011, Volume 10, Issue 3

Nurse Theresa Brown pens new book.

Theresa Brown, RN, is now the nurse-who-writes-about-nursing, a title that surprised her but is not strange given she has a PhD in English and a first career as a college professor.

Brown left teaching because she wanted something more fulfilling, and she found it in the field of bedside nursing. The writing came when she was prompted to reflect on her first experience with an unexpected death in a column that found its way to David Corcoran, an editor at The New York Times, where she is now a regular contributor to the Well blog.

Both of Brown’s gifts, nursing and writing, blend perfectly in Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between, and, for cancer patients and survivors, it’s a view into a world usually only seen from one side. Brown is candid about her job and how little she knew when she started—about chemotherapy, lines and all the other aspects of cancer. It is a good lesson for those going through it that the nurse may or may not be able to tell patients what they need to know, and, for young nurses, that patients need to share their experiences as part of the learning process.

What Brown does so eloquently in this little book is open a window on nursing that helps the reader understand that the men and women who patients rely on while undergoing treatment are human. And, particularly in cancer nursing, they have to cope with very difficult situations with grace and understanding. Brown provides a number of these moments but none as dramatic as the day when, shortly after having a casual conversation with a patient, she found herself in the midst of a death scene as the patient bled out in a matter of minutes.

While Brown paints the dramatic moments well, she also captures the humorous side of this difficult profession in the chapter, “Doctors Don’t Do Poop.” It’s a small book filled with big moments in nursing.