Photo Credits: Ken Weingart

The Shift: Theresa Brown’s Transition from Educator to Nurse

Author of New York Times bestseller The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients’ Lives, Theresa Brown made the crazy switch from a college educator to a nurse and through her writing has become an inspiration to many up and coming nurses across the country 

Brown graduated from Chicago University with a Ph.D. in English and from there went on to teach at Tufts University, teach a class at MIT and supervise a student at Harvard University. Although she was becoming successful in her field she never became content within it, which led to her incredible change in fields.  

“I just didn’t like getting up in front of a classroom every day,” said Brown. “I liked working one-on-one with students. Then I became a mom … It was really that pregnancy, because I had a midwife and suddenly I was the patient and in an intense way that I had never been before … I got very intrigued by the healthcare system.”  

Through her pregnancy, Brown started to see the importance of nurses and made the switch to become one herself. Now, nearly ten years later, she is combining both her talent as a writer and passion for helping others as a nurse to truly make a lasting impact on the world.  

In her time as a nurse, Brown has noticed issues in the healthcare system that she wanted to be brought to light. Her book The Shift was not to simply entertain, but it was her opportunity to express her concerns with healthcare and educate others on these issues. 

“I really wanted to show the texture of healthcare and that is how I think of it because there are so many troubles with healthcare right now,” said Brown. “There are so many questions. So many arguments. So much money being spent and other places money not being spent … I wanted people to understand how important nurses are to healthcare but also how we all work together.” 

Brown noticed that doctors are the ones who are seen to have the automatic authority and she wanted that same respect for nurses. She did that by providing a voice that people normally do not hear from — the voice of a bedside nurse.  

“The center of the hospital is the nurse,” said Brown. “The nurse is spending the time with the patient. The nursing is looking at the orders on the computer. The nurse is the one talking with the family … The emotional support and even the basic to the most complicated questions about what is going to happen, the nurses are the ones that end up taking care of that.”  

Since being published, her book has been made a staple reading of many nursing schools. Students who read it not only get a look at the issues Brown emphasizes but they are provided with an in-depth look at what the day to day is like for a nurse, fully preparing them for what they will face once they to step into the field.  

“Even the school with the best possible curriculum and clinical students still graduate without a full sense of what the job is like,” said Brown. “It is really hard for schools to get that across. What I hear is that [students] read my books and they have just a much fuller picture of what it’s really like to work as a nurse.”  

While her book is being read by many current nurses and prospective nurses, Brown hopes that nurses will also branch out to read books written by doctors. This will provide them with another perspective and together both can make healthcare better. 

“I would love too if there were nurses who read books by doctors about healthcare and how they see healthcare working,” said Brown. “Because neither one us really has a good sense of each other’s point of view, but we’re supposed to work so closely together … If people really want healthcare to improve, then they need to have nurses at the table and not sitting in a little chair off to the side because we are so much a part of it and we need to be a part of the conversation.”   

Although Brown has accomplished great heights already, she is working on her third novel which will take a look from her experience as a patient and provide another new perspective. This is just another step of hers to make a lasting impact as she continues to make a difference in the healthcare world. 




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