Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nurse Romance Stories: Falling In Love 44 - "There Goes My Heart!"

In a mood of 'variations on a theme' I'm posting this nurse romance from DC's Falling In Love 44 from August 1961. It illustrates the problem female nurses have to face at work in hospital wards with male patients, but also ends up reinforcing the idea that women can become nurses and end up with a nice husband whom they meet as a doctor or in this case a patient. The story starts, though, by depicting that hazard of nursing - male patients getting the wrong idea. Nurse Bernice has to fend off the romantic inclinations of one patient, but wonders if her knowing that this is a common delusion male patients exhibit isn't shutting the door on potential real romance. When I was working on a survey to measure the public image of nursing I was consulting a prominent nurse educator and she talked about this very problem - the intimacy of care coupled with the guy lying in a bed does put the female nurse at risk for different levels of sexual harassment. This isn't something DC dreamed up.

Nurses are women, not stone. So Bernice does develop some attachment in the instant a handsome patient kisses her, and then has to deal with the residue when that patient inevitably walks out of the hospital some time later with a babe on his arm.

When another handsome patient comes on to Bernice she wavers, and starts to believe that there might be something a little more real going on. She allows herself to hope, gets dressed up to go and see this guy Ray, only to find him chatting up another nurse and confirming that which she had been taught about men in hospitals who express affection for nurses. Bernice re-absorbs herself in her duties as a professional carer and tries to forget the feelings that had been stirred within her.

Bernice avoids Ray for the rest of his stay in hospital, but when she hears he's getting discharged she breaches professional ethics, runs to the lobby and plants a kiss on him right in front of the blond in a fur coat who looks like she's his partner. Nurses - they're self-sacrificing angels - okay - but so ready to disgrace themselves for the sake of a guy who couldn't give a crap anyway? Well, I guess she's only human, and men and women in any walk of life are prone to do that kind of thing. This is a romance story after all!

So finally when all hope of finding a patient to love seems to have flown out the window of the hospital, Bernice finds herself in a tangle with an unpredictable mentally ill patient. That's after she's contemplated romance with a handsome reporter who's there because his hands were burnt while he was saving passengers from a burning aircraft. He doesn't try to hit on Bernice, and in fact is verbally rather unpleasant and dismissive of her care. While he's asleep (apparently) Bernice voices her thoughts out loud, and kisses her dreamy patient, who subsequently comes to her rescue when the mentally ill patient goes berserk. When Bernice finds out he'd heard everything she said, and was awake when she kissed him, she's embarrassed and apologizes for her professional misconduct. But in that kiss they had met as souls destined for each other. Bernice has finally found her patient to fall in love with (and so she can now pack in nursing and become a housewife!?).

The artist on this story, for me anyway, creates a beautiful, gentle, caring image of the nurse - her facial expressions, body language, movements, dress, all combine to communicate femininity and womanliness as well as a deeply caring professional. At the same time Bernice is somewhat fragile and vulnerable, apparently by virtue of being a woman. Nevertheless she has the strength to move past the disappointments that result from unsolicited advances from amorous male patients, using absorption in her work as her means of recovery. While endorsing the idea that nurses can find a nice husband amongst the patients they care for, this story doesn't suggest that this path to matrimony is a particularly smooth one.

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