(ABC News) -- Photographer Carolyn Jones, inspired by the woman who nursed her though chemotherapy for breast cancer, traveled the country in 2012 to interview 110 of the nation's finest nurses.
The end result is the American Nurse Project, personal stories of nurses of every stripe from every facet of society captured through photography and film.
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In the documentary, “The American Nurse,” Jones (“Living Proof: Courage in the Face of AIDS”) and her producer Lisa Frank, highlight those who “make the difference between suffering and peace; between chaos and order. ... Nurses understand humanity in a way that no one else does."
The film opens at Digplex Theaters nationwide on May 8 and at the Quad Cinema in New York City on May 16.
“My knowledge of nursing was nil and limited to nurses in a hospital,” said Jones, who was given extraordinary access to the work of five nurses who are on the frontlines of the health care system.
“The film shows a lot of the issues we are dealing with as a country through the lens of nursing –- returning war vets, poverty, end-of-life issues. I wanted to look at what health care looks like in the most and least populated parts of the country. What is it like in the coal mines?”
Jones said she had “rich, deep conversations” with nurses about the state of health care in America and hoped to elevate their voices.
“Why don’t we have more nurses at the table when we are talking about hospitals running more efficiently?” she asked. “We should talk to nurses before we go to war. ... Our health care system is a disaster and we need them. They understand how we function and they certainly know how we die.”
As a group, nurses are “nonjudgmental” in their work, Jones said. “They will help human beings as human beings, whether they committed a crime, shot someone or someone is screaming at them.”
Nurses at their best also hold “no veneer,” according to Jones. “They are authentic and real. ... At their core the, best of humanity.”
“Every day, nurses remind us there is a cycle –- we live and die and get sick and our families mourn and there is another day,” said Jones. “Technology is a miraculous thing and saves our lives, but we have forgotten that someone has to get you and your family through it.”