Theresa Brown

Book cover image

Narrated By: Tavia Gilbert

Duration: 7 hours and 19 minutes

What to expect

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 in 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. By shift’s end, we have witnessed something profound about hope, healing, and humanity.

Every day, Theresa Brown holds patients’ lives in her hands. On this day there are four: 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.


Nurse/patient relationship, Nursing, Nursing sociology, Medical ethics and professional conduct, Medicolegal issues, Coping with cancer

Listen to a sample

“An engrossing human drama composed of interlocking stories of patients and their families, doctors and nurses, aides, chaplains, social workers, and others.”

Wall Street Journal

“What makes Brown’s story shine are the touching and sometimes bizarre moments that make real life in a hospital stranger than fiction.”

Boston Globe

“Brown does an excellent job of taking us moment by moment through her day.”

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Should be required reading for all incoming medical and nursing students.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Riveting…Raises important questions about staffing, shift lengths, various protocols, and the role of touch, empathy, and record keeping in health care.”

Barnes & Noble, editorial review

“This meticulous, absorbing shift-in-the-life account of one nurse’s day on a cancer ward stands out for its honesty, clarity, and heart.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Brown’s background as a university English professor is evident in her prose…Nursing students and professionals will appreciate the humor and will understand the situations involved.”

Library Journal

“An empathetic and absorbing narrative as riveting as a TV drama.”