Nurse's Choice

Brennan, Frederick Hazlitt

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine
  • Date of entry: Feb-11-2000
  • Last revised: Sep-01-2006


Miss Armistead is a nurse in the surgical division of a hospital. She is being courted by two men, Dr. Joe Trask, the chief resident, and Dr. Mort Baker, an established and very successful surgeon. Everyone in the division is taking bets on her choice. Most assume she will choose Baker, the wealthier, more powerful doctor.

Then Miss Armistead develops appendicitis and requires emergency surgery. Joe Trask is on duty and has to begin the operation before Baker arrives, but experiences a terrible crisis of confidence, becoming helpless with fear. Baker arrives and completes the operation.

Everyone assumes that this will clinch Baker’s victory, but when Joe tells her how he was unable to operate on her, Miss Armistead takes this inability to see her as just another patient to be proof of the depth of his love for her, and agrees to marry him.


This story, published in the 1930s, is an example of the stereotypical view of a relationship between nurses and doctors, where the nurse is always female and subordinate and the doctor male and in control, except in the sphere of romance and marriage, where the attractive nurse gets to choose which man will succeed in winning her attention. In choosing the doctor who proves his love by failing as a surgeon, the nurse confirms the story’s subtext: that women’s matters, such as romance, are irrevocably at odds with success at (men’s) work. A revealing glimpse of cultural representations of health care professionals in the early 20th century.


The anthology is part of a Garland series, The History of American Nursing. First published in Collier’s 100 (11 December 1937).

Primary Source

American Nurses in Fiction: An Anthology of Short Stories



Place Published

New York




Barbara Melosh

Page Count