The American Nurse Project — Insight Into A Beloved Profession

THE AMERICAN NURSE PROJECT, which includes a book, documentary film and ongoing blog interviews, tells the story of the life and professional commitment of nurses across the United States. The creator, photographer Carolyn Jones along with her team, wanted to raise awareness of the uniqueness of the nursing profession by allowing nurses to have their own voice.American_Nurse_news

Simply put, they believe nurses matter. After all, nurses are the heart of the health care system. They work in partnership with other members of the health care team striving to improve all aspects of care while considering the unique needs that each patient presents.


When this project was shared with me, I was cautiously curious to see how a non‐ nurse would portray my profession. After all, being a nurse for over 40 years, I had my own experiences and insight to influence my viewing.

The 80 minute film was shot in a more “60 Minutes” factual style and was an emotional experience to view the stories of other nurses, as they sought to make a difference in very challenging circumstances. While the shooting was realistic, the stories were poignant and made this nurse proud of how the profession has evolved. It touched my heart.


Since 2002, the nursing profession has annually earned the top ranking of the Gallup Poll’s most trusted profession. The selection criteria of the survey focus on honesty and ethical standards. These results reinforce the question the viewer may ask: Who is this nurse? The book, published in 2012, answers the question through heart‐connecting photographs of 75 nurses and their daily work and relationships with their patients.

THE AMERICAN NURSE PROJECT film, released in 2014, provides a different perspective by sharing the stories of five incredible nurses, as told by them. These exceptional individuals are: Tonia Faust, who cares for maximum‐security prison inmates; Jason Short, who delivers home health care to patients in Appalachia; Brian McMillion, who administers nursing care and more to soldiers returning from war; Naomi Cross, a labor and delivery nurse supporting mothers giving birth; and Sister Stephen, providing end of life supportive care to nursing home patients at the end of life.American_Nurse_film


THE AMERICAN NURSE PROJECT film allows the viewer a rare opportunity to be an observer of the interactions nurses have with their patients on a daily basis. At one point, we are in the labor and delivery room during a complex birth and are able to experience with the nurse the first time the parents sees and touches their new born. Next, we enter a nursing home room where we witness an elderly woman in bed, who is barely holding on to life, observing the nursing staff, some with stethoscopes around their necks sing her favorite hymn as her daughter (I am assuming) is holding her hand.

Another moment in the film shows us the selection of the prosthetics a newly injured war vet will one day be able to use because of the therapy and support he receives from the nurse, who is an active reserve war veteran. Then, we are in the impoverished home of a man dying of cancer and being cared for by his family. His nurse is teaching them how to best his treatments while also offering emotional support, as they struggle with his horrific illness and impending death. Throughout the video we experience kindness, hope, and an unyielding show of support.


The fim is even more than those special moments, as these nurses narrate their life’s experiences that made them compassionate caregivers. These are people who have dedicated just about every aspect of their lives to doing the very best for the patients they are charged with serving. I get it, as I am a nurse. While not a part of direct patient care today, I have and understand what it takes to be with someone dying and giving them permission to leave this world.

There are many heart‐rending scenes in the video where we are present when the nurse is there with the patient, as that person faces some of the most difficult moments of life. And, there is joyous success as we watch a patient overcoming the hurdles of loosing limbs to walk and even run again or nursing home patients experiencing peaceful interaction with therapy animals.


According to the American Nurses Association, today there are 3.1 million licensed R.N.s working in the USA. 2.6 million are employed in nursing and 62.2 percent are working in hospitals. The average age of nurses today is 45.5 years and the largest group of employed RNs is: 50 to 54 years old. And, only 6.6 percent are guys.

Fifty percent of nurses have a BSN (Bachelor's of Science in Nursing). Also interesting to note is that there are more nurses in the age range of 60 to 65 working today than in 1980. No doubt, there are nurses that fit every demographic there is today! **


There are very few people who haven’t experienced the care of a nurse, whether in the doctor’s office, a hospital situation or outpatient care. I suggest watching THE AMERICAN NURSE PROJECT film (1 minute trailer here) as a way to understand who is influencing our health care and why the nurse is worthy of our trust.

Next time you see a nurse, you will want to say thank you, not only for what he or she may be doing for you, but what you know a nurse encounters every day and how they strive to improve the lives of others with all of their being.

You might also enjoy other posts I’ve written about nurses:

When I grow up I want to be a nurse; A Celebration of National Nurse’s Week 2014!

**To NURSES everywhere: a tip of my nursing cap!!




  1. I’m looking forward to seeing this! I’ve seen many times where nurses pick up on a critical pieces of information that Doctors overlook. They literally save lives. Thanks Elaine!


    1. Nurses do that and much more. Today’s nurse is relied on by the doctor to observe, assess, evaluate and, as the video title notes, heal. The nurses in the video were amazing, but not unique. I am humbled to be a part of the same profession!! Thanks for the observation.


  2. I’ve been lucky to have a lot of nurses in my life and they are a very special breed indeed! When I was sick in the hospital for so long it was the nurses who got me through it and some are still friends to this day. My very best friend is a nurse. What amazes me the most is the fact that they are human and go through the same things we do but are able to put their own struggles away to help someone else every single day!


    1. Hi Rena: Not a surprise that your best friend is a nurse. Nurses are amazing in what they do and how they manage professionally despite some challenging personal situations. Thanks for sharing!


    1. It is a really good video. I appreciate that it tells the stories, as they are, allowing the viewer to be a part of the drama and to feel authentic emotions along the way. And, I agree, that nurses are important!


  3. This sounds like a very powerful and moving documentary. I’m sure one that I’d love to watch as long as I had plenty of tissue and it sounds emotionally moving as well. Thanks for sharing and I’ll keep an eye out for it on Netflix.


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