The Shift: A Book Review

The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, and Four Patient’s Lives by Theres Brown was compelling. At times so compelling, and so real it brought back up experiences in my nursing career that were hard to relive. It’s definitely not a book that can be read in one setting. At times stressful. At times heartbreaking. At times heartwarming.


The Wall Street Journal says, “An engrossing human drama…The Shift is one nurse’s story, but it contains elements of every nurse’s experience.”

And I couldn’t agree more with that review, this book is a raw representation of the inpatient nursing world. And at times, it’s not so pretty. For a nurse, it felt as if I was right along with her as she worked her shift. This book shows the strenuousness of nursing when she mentions on pg. 146, “One in five nurses quits a first job within a year. Susie’s a good nurse. I don’t want her to be apart of the 20 percent who leave.” Wow. That is a staggering statistic, but as you read this book and relate to the immense pressure of our job as a nurse, it is easy to see why this would be true.

Later on pg. 152 she writes, “I’d forgotten, but now I remember: The most important thing of all is that everyone’s alive at the end of the day.”

The Shift even touches on the subject of ethics in nurse charting when she continues on pg. 193, “I battle with my conscience about what to write down: the actual time I got the vitals, or when I was supposed to take them…If I falsify records in small ways I worry I will end up being too comfortable with the idea of little, victimless lies. I don’t want to get used to fudging records even for something as relatively trivial as this.” I mean, haven’t we all been in this position before?

My favorite quote of the entire book is when Teresa is speaking of her co-worker going home for the day as she asks her what her plans are she replies on pg. 191, “You know, Teresa, I’m just happy right now, just very happy. So I’ll finish the day and go home and just be…happy.” This nurse is happy because of an extraneous circumstance, but nonetheless it warmed my heart.

So yes, I totally recommend you read this book. But not if your looking to relax. This book keeps you on the edge of your seat, at times needing a dose of Ativan to calm your racing heart as you journey with her throughout her twelve hour shift.




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