Nurse Jewel shows B.D. the tough love
July 3, 2004 -- Garry Trudeau's widely distributed comic strip "Doonesbury" has introduced another positive nurse character, the tough Walter Reed nurse Jewel, who is now caring for Lt. B.D. following the loss of part of his leg in the Iraq war.
In the June 25 strip, Nurse Jewel introduces herself as "Nurse Jewel." Presumably she is an Army nurse and also at least a Lieutenant, though this is not made clear. She starts B.D. off with a friendly warning, explaining that the hospital's nurses "love our soldiers," but noting that "because we're so good at all the things we do here...occasionally a patient is tempted to think of us as his personal concierge service. This is a mistake." B.D. responds, "I can tell," and Jewel says, "Then let the fun begin! Drain your wound?"
This is fairly effective depiction of a skilled nurse dealing with that whole handmaiden thing right off the bat. Jewel makes clear that she and her colleagues are committed to providing excellent care, but makes equally clear that they are health care professionals, not logistical assistants. B.D. gets and obviously respects the message, and she displays a certain ironic wit in her reference to the "fun" of draining his wound. We could quibble with the lack of clarity as to Jewel's status and her use of the term "love," with its personal overtones. But on the whole we're too pleased that Trudeau has directly confronted the handmaiden stereotype in such a prominent forum.
In the June 28 strip, Jewel starts to put B.D. to work on the long road to recovery, telling him that she needs to see him sit up before a guest visits. He protests, calling her a "tyrant" (affectionately), but she persists, telling him to just move slowly. He decides to twist his body, and before she can stop him, moves in such a way that it causes him to scream--a nurse at a reception desk outside wonders "if anyone told him about his skin graft." Here again, we might have wished that someone would have told B.D. more clearly how he might move without such pain. But we're too excited to see the strip depict a nurse pushing a patient to do what is necessary to gain strength and move toward recovery--a critical nursing function that is rarely shown to such a broad audience, or at least, rarely shown to be the province of nursing.
Jewel is African-American. Trudeau gets extra points--as he did for male nurse Chance Lebon at Landstuhl in Germany--for showing diversity in the nursing community, an especially important thing at this time of critical shortage.
On the whole, Trudeau again deserves the thanks of the nursing community. As of July 3, B.D. remains at Walter Reed, and we may see more of Nurse Jewel.
May 29, 2004 -- Starting on May 21 and continuing through today, Garry Trudeau's influential and widely syndicated comic strip "Doonesbury" has featured a positive, nuanced nurse character, Lieutenant Chance Lebon, caring for character B.D., who has been seriously wounded in the Iraq war. more...