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Life and Death in the Central Highlands
Changing on the Job
Our American Story
Rebels at Rock Island
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Fighting for America
Labor's War at Home
The Complexity of Modern Asymmetric Warfare
Legend Tripping

Where Night Is DayWhere Night Is Day

The World of the ICU

James Kelly

Narrated by Sean McElhiney

Available from Audible

Book published by Cornell University Press

"There is no night in the ICU. There is day, lesser day, then day again. There are rhythms. Every twelve hours: shift change. Report: first all together in the big room, then at the bedside, nurse to nurse. Morning rounds. A group of doctors moves slowly through the unit like a harrow through a field. At each room, like a game, a different one rotates into the center. They leave behind a trail of new orders. Wean, extubate, titrate, start this, stop that, scan, film, scope. The steep hill the patient is asked to climb. Can you breathe on your own? Can you wake up? Can you live?"—Where Night Is Day

Where Night Is Day is a nonfiction narrative grounded in the day-by-day, hour-by-hour rhythms of an ICU in a teaching hospital in the heart of New Mexico. It takes place over a thirteen-week period, the time of the average rotation of residents through the ICU. It begins in September and ends at Christmas. It is the story of patients and families, suddenly faced with critical illness, who find themselves in the ICU. It describes how they navigate through it and find their way. James Kelly is a sensitive witness to the quiet courage and resourcefulness of ordinary people.

Kelly leads the reader into a parallel world: the world of illness. This world, invisible but not hidden, not articulated by but known by the ill, does not readily offer itself to our understanding. In this context, Kelly reflects on the nature of medicine and nursing, on how doctors and nurses see themselves and how they see each other. Drawing on the words of medical historians, doctor-writers, and nursing scholars, Kelly examines the relationship of professional and lay observers to the meaning of illness, empathy, caring, and the silence of suffering. Kelly offers up an intimate portrait of the ICU and its inhabitants.


“This revealing personal account blends the day-to-day drama of life in the ICU with a fascinating history of medicine, hospitals, nursing, and intensive care—told through the eyes of Kelly, a critical care nurse at Lovelace Women's Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico, over a twelve-week period in the ICU..The evocative language puts the reader in Kelly’s shoes—in the halls and bedsides of the ICU.”

Health Affairs

“This book is a must read for all nursing and medical students. Here, critical care nurse Kelly shares his experiences in an ICU in New Mexico over a 13-week period. He also perfectly describes the experiences of the ICU patients and their families—what they see, do, and reflect on during this time. Lastly, he discusses his interactions with physicians, and explains how nurses and doctors collaborate to accomplish the common goals of keeping patients comfortable, sedated, and alive. Kelly successfully depicts 'the good' and 'the bad' of ICUs. He tells the stories of individual patients and families, and describes the ICU subculture in a graphic, realistic manner. He conveys the nurse's perspective on the grueling experience of having to make life-and-death decisions on a daily basis. He clearly shows how emotional, and sometimes unemotional, a nurse must be to survive this type of professional setting.... Highly recommended.”


“James Kelly's ICU is a relentless and claustrophobic space where all the stories begin in the middle and only some have endings. His book is an exhilarating and humbling depiction of nursing in the twenty-first century.”

—Arthur W. Frank, author of The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics

All titles are published by:
University Press Audiobooks
an imprint of Redwood Audiobooks

University Press Audiobooks