The American Nurse! An Inspiring Movie-Please See It When You Can

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Naomi carries baby Felix to his mom, moments after his birth

Naomi carries baby Felix to his mom, moments after his birth

The American Nurse directed by Carolyn Jones,  produced by Lisa Frank, and inspired by Oncology Nurse,  Joanne Staha is an honest and gritty documentary about 5 nurses in various areas of practice throughout the USA.

Naomi Cross:  Labor and Delivery, Jason Short:  Rural Home Care Tonia Faust:  Hospice Ward in Prison, Brian McMillion:  Military/VA and Sister Stephen Bloesl:  Long-term care

Jason cares for his patient Jeff in his home in Appalachia

Jason cares for his patient Jeff in his home in AppalachiaTonia Faust:  Hospice Care in a Prison

We learn about their stories and those of some of their patients.  There are intimate relationship moments involving compassionate care and some glimpses into sophisticated clinical expertise.  There are references to sacrifices nurses make such as relationship limitations and dangerous driving on some unmaintained and flooded roads!

Nurses interface with other human beings during profound periods of birth, death, loss, and rehabilitation. This film doesn’t glamorize this, but rather takes it time in letting the stories unfold so that viewers can actually experience a little bit of being nurse.  I think this is wonderful because it might help our society to take better care of our nurses.

Brian works with other military volunteers at the Stand Down event for homeless veterans in San Diego

Brian works with other military volunteers at the Stand Down event for homeless veterans in San Diego

The movie does a super job of showing common thread of skilled professionals all of whom in their various ways are helping to decrease suffering.  I felt proud to be a nurse and proud to be a nurse advocate.

The movie doesn’t focus on excessive alarms or endless paperwork that constitutes much of nursing practice these days.  These nurses seemed to have time to listen to, teach,  and comfort their patients and seems like a wonderful focus.  Maybe this movie will help to preserve this valuable time.   I hope so.  Our patients need it and so do we.

New and seasoned nurses, students, consumers and other healthcare professionals will find something compelling about this movie.  And even though it is impossible to honor all specialties directly, there is enough variation to inspire vicarious respect.  (Buy/Rent: The American Nurse).

Director’s Statement

I had a great nurse who got me through chemotherapy.

I had breast cancer, and when I was going through that crummy experience, I arrived at a point where I didn’t have one single hair on my body. I just didn’t feel like me anymore. Losing my eyebrows and eyelashes was the last straw. The only place I felt normal was with the nurse giving me chemotherapy. Something happens when you look really sick – people treat you differently and it makes you feel even weirder than you already do. But not Joanne, she was funny and irreverent. She talked about hair color and boyfriends and dinner dates. She got me through it.

I’ve always been fascinated by people who know what to do in really difficult situations.

When I started to dig into the world of nurses, I recognized a few things right away. They are different. They see the human being first. They are trained, conditioned, born to find the avenue into understanding others so that they can do their work. That work is to heal and

Sister Stephen kisses the forehead of a dying resident, moments after she and the enitre nursing staff came together to sing to her

Sister Stephen kisses the forehead of a dying resident, moments after she and the enitre nursing staff came together to sing to her

make someone feel better – no matter who they are, what their ethnic background is, what political party they belong to, what crime they have committed. This gives them a special set of tools – they are full of tolerance and understanding, compassion and love. And it’s beautiful.

I’ve now met and interviewed 110 of some of the best nurses in this country. Nurses dealing with issues that affect us all: poverty, war, end of life, a health care system that is more of a disease management system, drug abuse, family abuse, life and death. I feel almost embarrassed to have a small minded thought when in the company of nurses. Nurses understand humanity in a way that no one else does.

We live in a time that is highly polarized. There is a chasm between us in this country as we grow ever more extreme in our beliefs. I think we have forgotten about the cycle of life and how precious our time here on earth is. We are so focused on youth – we don’t know how to die – and we certainly aren’t interested in aging gracefully. I met a nurse who said it right – “Americans think that death is optional.”

Tonia Faust cares for one of her patients in the hospital ward at the Louisiana State Penitentiary

Tonia Faust cares for one of her patients in the hospital ward at the Louisiana State Penitentiary

It’s true—we are all going to die. It’s so important to leave a mark here. I don’t want to get to the end and think, “damn, I didn’t do enough.” So I’m always searching for that. Nurses make a difference every single day. Mother Teresa’s quotes about casting a stone across the water to create many ripples and doing small things with great love—that’s what nurses are all about.Diving into the world of nurses has made my life brighter. I got a glimpse of the world through their eyes and it actually changed the way I think about things. I thought I knew how I felt about war, religion, coal mining, end of life. This journey into the world of nurses has been hugely transformative for me, kind of like having someone take me by my ankles and shake me upside down to change my perspective and show me how much I don’t know. And that’s a lot.

At the end of each of our lives, we will think about how we lived. Were we kind? How did we make others feel? These are the things that will matter.

I hope this film takes the viewer on that path, through the lens of a nurse, and opens a door to understanding not only those around us, but ourselves, and what wonders we are capable of.

CJP-portrait–Carolyn Jones April 26, 2014 New York City

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