The Literary Examiner - "Critical Care" by Theresa Brown


Critical Care by Theresa Brown

c.2010, HarperStudio • $19.99 / $21.99 Canada • 208 pages



Changing a career?  Yeah, you’ve thought about it – several times – and maybe it’s become a necessity in more ways than one.


Maybe you’ve got a job that pays well but you hate it. A new opportunity could be the boost you need to stay positive in this economy. Or perhaps you’ve been cornered into needing a gear-switch and the time is right for a new change of pace.


Author Theresa Brown was an English professor who taught writing at Tufts University when she began to feel an internal nudge toward a new career. In the new book Critical Care, she tells about her switch from pen to patient.


When friends, colleagues, and patients learned that Theresa Brown left the halls of academia for the quiet halls of a hospital, the question she was most often asked was, “Are you crazy?”


But Brown was not.


Following the births of her children, and realizing that she wanted a job where she was “expected to care about people”, she entered nursing school, got her R.N., and started orientation in oncology.


“This book,” she says, “is the story of how I learned to do a job I love and hate, and why I keep on doing it.”


It’s the story of adrenaline, and leaping in to try to save a woman who’s already dead from a tumor that broke off and lodged somewhere in her body.


It’s about dignity, and learning that doing everything you can do for a patient with uncomfortably embarrassing symptoms sometimes isn’t enough. Sometimes, seeing illness from the patient’s point-of-view is what’s important.


And, finally, it’s about caring for a patient’s family as well as the patient himself. It’s about showing someone that you’re human too; about getting along with difficult colleagues; standing up for one’s self; and becoming another person when you leave work. It’s about sharing – delicately – with a spouse and giving one’s children just enough information to satisfy their “what does Mommy do” curiosity.


Critical Care is a bit of anomaly.


On one hand, author Theresa Brown does what so many other nurse memoirs do by writing about her job, and recalling favorite and memorable patients. The difference is that Brown does it with a twist: between recollections, she tells what it was like to go from a relatively sedentary job to one that required her to be on her toes – sometimes literally – for eight to sixteen hours.


The problem is that Brown tends to wander off-course a little more than I wanted. Instead of more insight to her work, we get an overly-detailed personal story of an injured knee. There is one v-e-r-y long chapter on feces, and several technical tales that are beyond what the average reader can grasp.


And therein lies the truth: this book probably isn’t for lay-readers, and it surely isn’t for cancer patients (some stories could potentially be terrifying). If you’re a nurse, nursing student, or thinking about a career in nursing, you’ll probably love Critical Care. For everyone else, though, you likely won’t much care for it.


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