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Being Human

Being Human aims to create conversations between the humanities and other disciplines -- conversations that let humanists and scholars in other fields learn from each other and create new forms of understanding as the 21st century unfolds.
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Aug 5, 2016

Our guest today is Theresa Brown, oncology nurse, columnist, and author of The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients’ LivesTheresa began her career as a writer in 2008 when she published an essay in the New York Times about a dramatic and emotional experience she had with a dying patient. The piece received national attention, and was anthologized in the Best American Science Writing and The Best American Medical Writing in 2009. Since then, she has written dozens of pieces about nursing, and has become a leading voice for nurses and nurse advocacy across the country. Her first book, Critical Care was published in 2010, and is widely used as a textbook in nursing schools.  Theresa’s writing frequently pulls back the curtain on the experiences and challenges that nurses face in their daily work. Sometimes this reveals frustrating working conditions, or difficulties dealing with hospital administration; but just as frequently, it shows the strength, skill, and commitment that nurses need to provide their patients with the best care they can. So it’s no surprise that President Obama quoted from Theresa’s blog when he was advocating for the Affordable Care Act in 2009. In what she calls her “past life,” Theresa received a PhD in English from the University of Chicago and was an English professor at Tufts University. I began by asking her about this past, and about the somewhat non-traditional path she took to becoming a nurse.

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