A Nurses's Story

Baida, Peter

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin
  • Date of entry: Apr-16-2001
  • Last revised: Sep-01-2006


The nurse in this O. Henry Prize-winning story is Mary McDonald. She’s been a nurse for over 40 years and understands fully that the new pain she feels is a signal of her cancer’s spread, and for her, the beginning of the end. The remainder of this story is a retrospective of her life as a nurse and most significantly her role in forming a union, thirty years previously, at the local hospital.

Deftly placed between her reminiscences are scenes of her children’s visits to their dying mother, and perhaps as a final legacy to her nursing colleagues, Mary’s attempt to convince Eunice, her caretaker at the nursing home, to unionize the facility.


This story would be a good companion piece to William Carlos Williams’s Old Doc Rivers (see this database), not only because of the style in which it is written, but also because of the similarities between the two complex characters. Both of them are important figures in their respective small towns and are revered by some of the townspeople, while reviled by others. One important difference in the two stories is Mary’s mentoring relationship with Eunice.

Primary Source

Gettysburg Review


Autumn 1998

Page Count