REVIEW: ‘The American Nurse’ a moving film about life and death, and those who care

Jul. 03, 2014 @ 10:51 AM

Dedicated to the 3.2 million nurses in the United States, the new documentary “The American Nurse” shows the life and death experiences of nursing professionals. The film’s North Carolina premiere will be screened Wednesday at Carmike Wynnsong 15 movie theater in Durham. Groups from UNC Hospitals and the UNC School of Nursing will attend the screening, and North Carolina Nurses Association President Megan Williams, MSN, RN, FNP, will participate in a post-screening question and answer session. Local nursing professionals can obtain continuing education credits for viewing the film. But beyond a must-see for those who are or have been nurses, “The American Nurse” is an important piece of work for all Americans to watch, as everyone comes in contact with a nurse at some point in their lives.

“The American Nurse” was developed from the 2012 book, “The American Nurse: Photographs and Interviews” by Carolyn Jones. In the film, Jones takes a closer look at some nurses – a labor and delivery nurse in Baltimore, a prison nurse in Louisiana, a military nurse, a home health nurse in Kentucky, and the director of a nursing home in Wisconsin. The filmmaker shows each nurse on the job, and the patients are interviewed, too.
Viewers learn why each nurse went into the medical field, with personal stories that might draw tears to viewers’ eyes. Indeed, you couldn’t be human and not have emotions come forth when watching the very real moments of life and dying. The nurses see the humanity in everyone, even those who are serving life sentences in prison. The prison nurse works in hospice. The labor and delivery nurse also works with perinatal bereavement. The nursing home director is also a Catholic nun who brings farm animals to elderly residents so they can experience new life. The back stories of the nurses don’t necessarily point to a career in nursing, but they had life-changing moments that led them to the field. Being in the field for the Army nurse means working with veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we also see the toll of combat.
One particularly compelling segment of the film shows a prisoner who volunteers in the hospice area helping to care for other prisoners in their final days with a touching gentleness. Audiences will also see the lengths that a home health nurse will go to, traveling washed out roads in Appalachia, to check on a patient. “The American Nurse” shows the humanity in all people – those who are cared for and those who do the caring. It’s moving.


WHAT: “The American Nurse”

WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: Carmike Wynnsong 15 movie theater
1807 Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, Durham
INFORMATION: Local nursing professionals may be able to receive continuing education credit hours for watching the documentary. For details, visit