Wit, the Play

In the play “Wit” by Margaret Edson, the nurse Susie Monahan deals with a number of issues pertaining to nursing. The purpose of this paper is to discuss three of these issues. Nursing image, Nurse and doctor relationships, and the therapeutic relationship between nurse and patient. We first meet Susie Monahan the primary nurse of Vivian Bearing the main character who is diagnosed with Stage IV cancer on page 16 of the play. She is fully involved in her patient’s care as well as helping her prepare for her examination and interview(Edson, 1999, pp. 0-21). She is portrayed as an assistant as well as coworkers with doctor Jason during the interview process.

Susie is portrayed as nurturing to her patient when Vivian comes into the hospital with vomiting and neutropenia inquiring with her about how she felt, and how she arrived in the same questions discovering that no one at home was available for Vivian. Susie actually stated that she was happy that she was tour that night so that she was able to care for Vivian directly “ I’m glad I was here on nights. ” (Edson, 1999, p. 4). She is often found providing her patient with things to comfort her like; Jell-O, juice and what I thought to be most interesting was the Popsicle, which we will discuss later. To me she is portrayed at first as the nurse that is quite in voice however, does what needs to be done for the sake of the patient. Slowly we begin to see a different side of Susie. She sees that her patient is suffering “Its too much for her like this” (Edson, 1999, p. 45), and that lowering the dose is the rational thing to do.

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She at this instance is showing that she is an advocate for the patent, this occurs in greater example at the end of the book during the Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) scene where she is yelling with out letting up at the Code team that her patient is a DNR. “(Running to each person yelling) STOP! Patient is DNR! (Edson, 1999, p. 83) This speaks to the relationship that she has with her patient and her strive for patient advocacy even in the last moments of Vivian’s life Which highlights the evidence of the therapeutic elements in the relationship she had with Vivian.

She uses therapeutic communication with her patient; nonverbal therapeutic touch and reassurance are used often. “She touches Vivian’s arm” (Edson, 1999, p. 34). She gets in close to her Vivian to hold her up when she is too weak to stand and makes herself available to her letting her know that she will come when Vivian calls for her. “If there’s anything you need you just ring” (Edson, 1999, p. 34). In another conversation with Vivian she gets in at eye level with the patient offering her full attention.

She directs Vivian’s feelings back to her through the therapeutic tactic of reflecting. (Theraputic Communication, 2011). “What you’re doing is very hard” (Edson, 1999, p. 65). She uses exploring by going deeper into Vivian’s uncertainty. (Theraputic Communication, 2011) Vivian: “ I don’t feel sure of myself anymore” Susie: “And you used to feel sure. ” Susie takes notices of and supports Vivian’s need for nurturing which is not bad but she also supports her regressive tendency. By calling her nick names and giving her a Popsicle.

I am not sure if this is right or wrong in therapy but I find it interesting that Vivian’s psyche was in a battle for accepting it on more than one occasion. It’s interesting that Vivian’s psyche was in a battle for accepting Susie’s bedside manner. She wouldn’t allow her self to be emotionally needy, she wanted to seemingly call out for her mother or give up and die but couldn’t be powerless enough to do so with out a fight however, still wanting to be nurtured. “I’m scared. Oh God. I want…I want…No. I just want curl up in a little ball. She dives under the covers“ (Edson, 1999, p. 70) Susie obviously began to pick up on this need and the doctors did not. To her Vivian was a person and not research.

This brings me lastly to the relationship she has with the doctors. It is apparent that she and Jason have a working Nurse Doctor relationship Jason had to wait for her cue in order to start the exam and interview, they were painted as a team, with some area of informal professionalism, he positively responded to her when she addresses him as “Jace” (Edson, 1999, p. 1). However, when she professionally voiced what she felt was best for the patient, her suggestions were not considered by the doctor. (Edson, 1999, p. 45). There are portions in the book where Jason and Susie are discussing poetry, specifically pages 74 – 87, here Susie is portrayed as inferior to the doctor, not in collegiate education but in understanding and comprehension of the topic of discussion, then Jason comments “What do they teach you in nursing school? (Edson, 1999, p. 78) As if nursing school could not actually be college or an institution of higher learning. In conclusion, this book has many examples of nursing issues that are timeless as well as those that have only immerged currently, however I don’t feel that Susie represent nurses as they are today there are some areas where she could have been more head strong with the doctors in advocating for her patient and herself as a professional. With these elements, Susie represents the characteristics of a dying image in nursing that seems to be slowly on its way out with the advancements in education and rights of nurses.


Edson, M. (1999). Wit. new york, ny: Faber and Faber,inc. Theraputic Communication. (2011, January 12). Retrieved May 03, 2011, from Psychiatric Nursing: http://www. nursingplanet. com/pn/therapeutic_communication. html

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