I read The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients Lives by Theresa Brown, RN as an audiobook. I love listening to memoirs, since it feels like I’m having a long, albeit one-sided, conversation with a new friend. This is a peek into one oncology nurse’s life, via one particular shift.

It happens that Brown also has a Ph.D. in English, and that certainly informs the quality of writing. Brown includes poetry, philosophy, books and their authors, while telling her story in a measured and calm manner. Her writing style is calm, but the life of an oncology nurse certainly isn’t. Brown does a terrific job of letting the reader insider her head. The Shift gives the lay person a valuable perspective of a medical caregivers’ moment-by-moment balancing act.

I happened to be reading this book at the same time as another medical memoir (ish) book with a radically different writing style. Remarking to myself that I’d chosen two medically oriented books at the same time, I also noted how much I preferred Brown’s writing. She lets her personality show as she shares the details of her shift. This is the kind of nurse I’d wish for as a patient. She’s caring, professional, funny, and intelligent.

My interest in all kinds of medical science and memoir books stems from a childhood without medicine. My parents’ religious beliefs didn’t allow medical care. Thankfully I survived this dangerous approach to child rearing, and have gone on to seek out medical care as you’d expect.

While I’ve been to the ER once or twice, had a few outpatient procedures and some pretty intense temporary home health care, I’ve never been a patient in a hospital. It’s books like this that assuage my curiosity. I gobble them up, and hope I never need to be a patient on a medical oncology ward. But when the time comes for some type of hospital admittance, I’ll think back to The Shift and feel less anxious. Then I’ll ring the call button as ask my nurse for whatever help I might need.