Interview: Carolyn Jones, Tonia Faust, Brian McMillion & Jason Short (‘The American Nurse’)

Sister Stephen feeds the cows in the fields outside Villa Loretto

The American Nurse Project aims to elevate the voice of nurses in this country by capturing their personal stories through photography and film. In early 2012, photographer Carolyn Jones and her team began a journey across the United States, recording the unique experiences of nurses at work. The photographs and narratives aim to inspire audiences to think about nurses in a way that they may never have before, with a newfound appreciation for this indispensable figure on the front lines of health and healthcare today: the American nurse.

Fueled by both critical success and the support of the nursing community, The American Nurse Project has just completed production on a feature length documentary. The film follows 5 nurses from the book along with their patients: Tonia Faust with maximum-security prison inmates; Jason Short with home health patients in Appalachia; Brian McMillion with soldiers returning from war; Naomi Cross with mothers giving birth; and Sister Stephen with nursing home patients at the end of life. 

The American Nurse Project‘ documentary is NOW SCREENING across the country and is also available for online purchase. Our contributing writer and journalist David Teich spoke with the film’s Director Carolyn Jones, a well as subjects Tonia Faust, Brian McMillion and Jason Short in an extended 2 part interview.

Part One: Carolyn Jones (Director), Tonia Faust (Documentary Subject), Brian McMillion (Documentary Subject)
Brian McMillion, a military nurse with the V.A. San Diego Health System, was on an uncertain path when at age 19 his father gave him 2 choices: “Go to college or enlist in the military. Except you’re not ready for college.” He spent time oversees where he was the first person that wounded soldiers would see when they woke up, often missing limbs and suffering from PTSD, wanting only to go back to their brothers in combat. In his current role, Brian works with young injured soldiers fresh from the combat theaters of Iraq and Afghanistan.

With a mother who worked in security at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, Tonia Faust grew up in the shadow of a maximum-security prison. She started working as a nurse and ended up following her mother’s path to Angola, where she now directs the hospice program. Tonia oversees a team of inmates who volunteer to care for their dying peers with a compassion and grace one would not expect to find behind bars.

Carolyn, tell me all about The American Nurse Project—it started with a book, right?
Carolyn Jones: Yes. I’m a photographer. I’ve published four books, and all of them focus on social issues. The first was called “Living Proof: Courage in the Face of AIDS.” It was about people living with AIDS, but living in a positive way and cherishing each moment of life. And that’s been the focus of my career: people who can inspire us and move us to be better human beings. So when I was first asked to do a book about nurses, I just thought it would be a wonderful world to dive into. I had a great nurse myself when I was fighting breast cancer. But I had no idea that this world would be as deep and as rich as was. So the book grew into a website, and that grew into a film.

As someone who went through breast cancer, what did it mean to you to explore nursing and health care?
Carolyn: My own experience was that I had great doctors who worked with me and did wonderful things, but at the end of the day it was really the nurse who gave me chemotherapy each time, who really got me through the experience of having cancer–dealing with losing all your hair, not knowing who you are, and all that stuff. I was particularly taken with this one remarkable nurse I had. She was the only one who could make me feel normal at a time when I really didn’t know what normal was anymore. My whole life I’ve been interested in people who have a gift of making others feel better, and of cherishing life. She really had an innate understanding of how I tick, and she knew how to make me feel better. So when I was asked to do a book I started with her. I went back and talked with her, and started to really find out what makes nurses tick. Where do they come from, and what’s their DNA structure, and how are they raised as kids? I wanted to know everything.

Cinematographer Jaka Vinsek, Director Carolyn Jones and Producer Lisa Frank in front of a military aircraft at Ramstein U.S. Air Base in Germany

Cinematographer Jaka Vinsek, Director Carolyn Jones and Producer Lisa Frank in front of a military aircraft at Ramstein U.S. Air Base in Germany

What was your nurse’s name, and what was her personality like?
Carolyn: Her name’s Joanne Staha. She was funny. I mean, I was losing all my hair, and she asked me who my hair colorist was. At first I thought it was in such bad taste. I actually said something to her, like, “I can’t believe you just asked me that.” But she said, “Your hair’s gonna grow back.” And I thought, “You know, of course it is. Someday it will, and someday I’ll need a hair colorist again.” So it was her irreverence, and her ability of look beyond what was going on at the moment, that made her really special.

There are over three million nurses in the United States. But is nursing nonetheless an overlooked and underappreciated profession?
Brian McMillion: With this film, I feel like we’re getting appreciated right now.

Tonia Faust: Yes.

Brian: If you had to have somebody wrap up some thankfulness and put it into a present, this is the best one you could possibly get.

Tonia: Absolutely. This is definitely getting nursing more noticed. Because you truly don’t hear a lot about the nursing field. You see the doctors, and the nurses are sort of in the hustle and bustle, and really doing a lot of everything, but sadly we aren’t noticed and appreciated as much as we should be. The nurses I know are so proud of their profession, and they’re really glad that the word is getting out there because of Carolyn.

Tonia, you work in a maximum-security prison in Louisiana, and as we see in the documentary, it’s not as if these inmates are always handcuffed to beds. Are you ever scared? Were you when you first started?
Tonia: I grew up around here, and my mother also worked in Angola [Prison]. But I still wasn’t prepared. Growing up, I would come in the gates of the prison, but I never went behind the razor wire. That’s all segregated off. I would go to the lakes and things like that, and it was a little weird and a little eerie. But then I started working here. You go in the doors, and the locks click shut behind you, and you have no way out. So it was very scary right at first. My first day here, I got the first true migraine of my life. But over time, it became like any other job that I’ve ever had. I know what these guys have done and have the potential to do, so I’ve always got my guard up, but I’m really not scared. And this may sound crazy, but I know that if anything were to happen, fights or anything like that, a lot of the guys would make sure that I got out of the way. That would be their top concern: to move me and do whatever had to be done to protect me. And there are also security officers at the end of every hallway. I’ve only rarely been frightened. Once was during Hurricane Katrina. We had a huge influx of thousands of outside inmates that I didn’t know, and they didn’t know me. That was a difference. I know the guys here, and they all know me, and watch out for me. But these guys, I didn’t know them. And they knew nothing about me. And there were a few fights here and there. I had to keep my guard up a lot more. But on a day-to-day basis, I don’t get worried.

Why is it, do you think, that the inmates came to be protective of you?
Tonia: I think with people in general—not just inmate offenders—as long as you treat them well and you respect them, they’ll respond to that. These people have done something bad, but they’re still people, and they still have feelings; they still get upset if you yell at them or fuss at them, just like I would. So I treat them like I would treat anybody else. And because of that, they respect me and they want to take care of me. I’m not saying they look at me as a sister or a mother. But a lot of them got here when they were just very young teenagers, so they do lack motherly compassion in their lives. And that’s the one thing that the majority of nurses have, and that’s something that these inmates have longed for. We’re the caregivers and we make them feel better.

Tonia works with her patients, inmates in the hospital ward at the Louisiana State Penitentiary

Tonia works with her patients, inmates in the hospital ward at the Louisiana State Penitentiary

You talk about respecting them and treating them normally—do you feel like that’s something they don’t get a lot of from other people in their lives?
Tonia: Yes. And I don’t think it’s necessarily that people try to treat them like that. But the security people here are authoritarians. And the inmates know they have to make sure the lights are out at a certain time and things like that. They’re living by very strict routines and schedules and rules and policies and procedures, and if they deviate, they may get in trouble.

In the film, you’re shown in the infirmary working alongside inmate volunteers. Is there a screening process?
Tonia: Yes, we do a weeding process. I may meet a guy who seems amazing, who does exactly what he’s supposed to and is very respectful. But then I speak with other security officers and other offenders to see how he acts when he walks away from me. Because people can act one way in front of you and totally different away from you.

As a nurse, what are some of the unique challenges of working at a prison?
Tonia: Number one, the mere look of it can be really intimidating. You’ve got razor wire around you. You’ve got security officers with guns posted at different positions, and dogs at different positions that are patrolling a certain areas. And the nursing aspect of it is different too. In a nursing home, you can hold your patient. I can’t do a lot of physical touch here, and that’s really hard. I’m a very touchy-feely kind of person. I’m always holding my kids, they’re always in my lap. At the prison, you have to learn boundaries, because there are rules. In the hospice, I’ll hold their hands and and I’ll stroke their heads and things like that. But when they’re taking their last breaths, you just want to grab ‘em and hold ‘em and tell them everything’s gonna be okay.

There’s a gorgeous shot in the film of the white gravestones in the prison graveyard. No family members came to get these people and bury them on the outside. Tonia, do you feel a responsibility to care for your hospice patients on an almost familial level, since a lot of them don’t have that elsewhere in their lives?
Tonia: Maybe sixty percent of the guys are buried here. They don’t have family. And you could say that in their eyes, I’m the last family member that they look at. I see my hospice patients every single day. I sit with them, we write letters to family if they have it, and if they don’t I listen to stories about their life. They confide in me a lot. They don’t have a lot of friends that come in to see them. Some of the other offenders may come and visit them, but it’s sporadic. But they see me every single day. And so I end up knowing how they grew up, what their parents were like, what their first marriages were like, their children, and pretty much everything. They tell me what they want their burial to be like, who they want there, if they want me to notify anyone, what they want in the casket with them. And a lot of them want to give me their belongings, but I can’t take anything like that. It’s really sad when they have no one from the outside to come in and be with them in those last days or weeks or months. But some of the guys do have family, and some of their families are very involved. For example, about two weeks ago, one of our patients passed away, and his family was very active in his life. They took him and buried him outside of the gates. They’re coming back soon, and we’re going to have a service here for all of his friends and his family.

Do you ever get emotional over patients’ deaths?
Tonia: With some of my patients, I just lose it. I cry and cry and cry. But I know they’re going to a better place, and at least they’re not in any discomfort anymore.

Brian McMillion talks to a recently-wounded soldier at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany

Brian McMillion talks to a recently-wounded soldier at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany

Brian, what are some of the unique challenges of being a nurse in the military in the military?
Brian: There are some similarities what Tonia talked about. For example, with persons who are struggling with posttraumatic stress, there are unspoken rules about when touch is okay and when it isn’t.   They may be suffering with things like paranoia and lack of sleep. With a patient in a hospital bed you may be able to just come right up and put a hand on a shoulder, look into their eyes, rub their forehead, talk to them. But in this case you don’t always get that luxury. You have to pay attention to a lot of cues before you can decide when it’s a good time to touch someone. But the bigger challenges in the military are really dependent on environment. In a semi-combat environment, you’re trying to provide care while worrying about whether you and your patients’ safety is in jeopardy at any given moment. Then you get out of the combat theater, and a lot of things shift. At that point it becomes about how to deliver the right amount of care to stabilize a person enough to determine whether they can go back on duty, or whether they need to come to the United States for more definitive care. You want them to be stable enough to travel, but you also need to make sure that you’re not gonna put them in a position where they can get worse in the travel.

Do you feel a bond with your patients, given that you’re also a part of the military system?
Brian: When you’re sequestered, when you’re far away, when you have shared experiences of danger, the people who are to your right and your left are your family. And sometimes when you’re taking care of a patient or a person who just got injured, you’re also thinking about other members of his unit: the person that escorted him, and making sure that you’re putting the right face on for that person, who has to go back.

Given that so many of your patients are going through things like posttraumatic stress disorder, and survivor’s guilt, do you, do you need to understand what your patients are going through mentally?
Brian: I think the main thing we have to do as VA nurses is know when it’s something we can do, or if it’s a situation where we really need to plug the patient into a higher level of care. You have to be aware of the different types of things that may be going on with somebody. It’s impossible to know everything you need to know in some situations. As an RN [registered nurse] in that environment, you’re expected to know at least a little bit about a lot of things. And you’re really expected to know how to figure out when someone needs more definitive care—an expert or a specialist. It’s tough to get that patient to also realize that they need the help. Because you can tell somebody something like, “Oh, I think you really should go see the therapist about this,” and they’ll say, “I had a therapist once, and it doesn’t work.” We have to convince them that they’re changing and they’re a different person now than they were three, four, five months ago, when they tried before.

How do your challenges change once you’ve been in the system for a substantial period of time?
Brian: The military has a high turnover rate. So you not only have to watch your own lane, you have to learn how to watch all the lanes around you. You have to be able to say, “Okay, the doctors are here for three months at a time, and this month all the doctors rotated. These new doctors don’t know what those doctors who were here before knew.” And so you’re watching the doctor lane, you’re watching the nurse lane, and you’ve got new techs from the airport who just came in, because they have four month rotations, and if you have a navy person they may be on a seven month rotation. So you’re just keeping your eyes open all the time and trying to figure out how you can be most effective and how you can prevent anyone from falling through the cracks. And how you can swing back around and pick up anybody who did fall through a crack.

Brian’s patient Wally, an Iraq War veteran, spends time exercising in his garage

Brian’s patient Wally, an Iraq War veteran, spends time exercising in his garage

Have you ever found it emotionally or psychologically difficult to treat the kinds of traumatic injuries that are unique military patients?
Brian: If I said no, you’d probably know I was lying. [Laughs.] It’s hard. When I was doing an AirVac mission my son was starting to approach military age. And I can’t lie and say that when plane after plane after plane is coming in with kids’ bodies, I wasn’t seeing my own son’s face on several of those kids. It can wear on you to the point where you have to really dig into your toolbox of self-care resources. Some people do mantra-repetition, which is something I teach, or there’s meditation, or there’s exercise. There’s a lot of relying on the other people to your left and right. And then there’s always happy hour, and there’s karaoke. Sometimes you just need to belt out a song. And it’s the alternative to sitting in your room and weeping.

What are some of the plus sides of being a VA nurse, as opposed to any other kind of nurse?
Brian: In the San Diego VA system, where I work, there are lots of roads for advanced practice. People at the expert nursing level can step out and do more, to do a little extra. I feel like we support each other well. For example, I’m able to have this job at the VA, and work with the veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan that are injured or ill. But I also work on a collateral duty of homeless veterans outreach. This gives me more breadth of experience, and makes me feel that I’m useful not just to the guys who came back and moved through a system that supported them, but to people who might not have made it through the system effectively. I think that’s something you don’t get to experience in every health care system: an ability to have a breadth of experiences that are supported by the leadership.

What are some of the ways that your job is changing now that U.S. conflicts in the Mideast are drawing down?
Brian: There’s been lot of attention on the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, and we’ve started some really good services and programs that are helping to support those veterans. But I fear that as we have less and less combat-wounded veterans, and less and less media attention, we won’t have as much support. I’d hope we can keep the attention on these guys in the years to come, because they’ll continue to need help. I mentioned in the movie that some of these guys are going to need care for the next thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years.

Carolyn, Tonia, Brian, what are some of the ways that nursing is a timeless profession, and what are some of the ways that it’s changing and is going to continue to change?
Carolyn: I’m continually amazed that we haven’t given nurses enough of a voice. You asked Tonia about the biggest challenges of working in a prison. And of all the things I could think of that she might have answered, not being able to touch people wasn’t even on my radar. Nurses touch and heal and care, and that’s what they’ve always done. It’s so simple, and it’s so profound and so beautiful. That’s why I went to the prison setting to begin with: to show how Tonia feels that way even when she’s dealing with guys in a maximum security prison. And nurses have such a great understanding of how human beings tick, because they see us in pain and they see us joyful with our family members, and they have this holistic understanding of how we work. Maybe that’s why it’s hard to shine a light on nurses: They’re good at so many things. If a doctor’s a brilliant knee surgeon, then that’s an easy thing to talk about. But nurses know how communities, hospitals, wars, people, and families function, and it’s kind of hard to zero in on the one thing that rises to the top. Caring and compassion and touching and healing are very general topics.

Brian: I think we’re getting more of a voice, because there’s no choice. We have an aging population, and we’re going to have a nursing shortage. We already do, actually, but it’s going to get worse as baby boomers start entering their elderly years. So it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to see more nurses, and you’re going to see nurses in more places than you saw them before. Hopefully the thing that stays constant for nursing is that we will continually be a popular profession, because we will continue to have the compassion that people need when they need it.

Tonia: ‘Yall said it beautifully. I’m trying to think of anything else to add, and ‘yall hit on the points that I was thinking of.

Carolyn: We have 3.2 million nurses right now. But we need another million by the year 2020. We are all going to need a nurse. And we have got to be able to let them perform to the full extent of their education. And we have got to be able to turn to them, and learn to listen. I’m a big believer that nurses should be a part of just about every conversation we have, because they have a perspective that is unique.

Jason is interviewed in his garage

Jason Short interviewed in his garage

Part 2: Jason Short (Documentary Subject)
Born and bred in one of the poorest rural counties in the United States, Jason Short was a mechanic and truck driver who has now transitioned from fixing cars to fixing people. He spends his days forging into the remote hollows of Eastern Kentucky, helping his patients in their battles with cancer, diabetes, and black lung disease. Caring for a region plagued by poverty, drug addiction, industrial pollution and more, Jason is intimately acquainted with a part of America few ever see.

You used to be a mechanic. What made you decide to switch to nursing, and was it a difficult transition?
Jason Short: It was a very natural transition for me. There aren’t a whole lot of middle class jobs around here. You either work in the coalmines, or you own your own company that caters to the coalmines. And sadly, a high percentage of people draw government assistance from the time they’re children. And I definitely did not want to be a part of that. So had my own garage. But working on cars didn’t satisfy me the way that nursing does, because I’d always find myself wanting to do great things for people. And I started taking anatomy and physiology courses—something about them just really appealed to me. I just fell in love with the science part of it. And then I married that to the human part of it—to the helping. And it just kind of went from there.

Do a lot of the people you treat get injuries or illnesses related to the coalmines?
Jason: Yeah, there is a lot of black lung—as a matter of fact, there are some people trapped in a mine a couple of counties over as we speak. Right now I work in a level one trauma unit, and in the ICU we see a lot of [mining-related] traumatic injury.

Jason drives down the hill from visiting his patient in her home in Appalachia

Jason drives down the hill from visiting his patient in her home in Appalachia

What kind of nursing did you do before you were in the ICU?
Jason: I worked for hospice. That’s really what I think this area needs help with: the patients that have been sent home. Because a lot of the homes are hard to get to. So when they’re in the hospital–if they can make it to the hospital–that’s a different story. But in their homes it’s different. For instance, maybe they have dressings they have to change two or three times a day, and the family-members oftentimes don’t even have a grade-school education and are having to do these sterile dressing changes. So there’s a lot of teaching involved. You’ve gotta build trust.

A lot of your patients live in locations where it would be very difficult for them to make it to a hospital in an emergency. How important is it to educate their families in case something urgent comes up?
Jason: Oftentimes we would have to reeducate them and reeducate them, sometimes with things that you would think would be pretty simple. But you’d have to keep telling them. And oftentimes you’d have to get up at three in the morning and go through these dense, forested places to get to them, to do a simple little task that you could not talk them through over on the telephone. And the education, and the relationship, is the most important thing. Specifically, with the families, not the patient. A lot of times the patient is under the weather, or too ill to communicate.

In the movie we see you driving up a roaring creek to get to an out-of-the-way house. Just how hard can it be to access these places, and what kinds of challenges can that bring?
Jason: A lot of times you have to park and walk to the houses. My very first experience with home health care here in Appalachia was with a tree house. And I mean a full-fledged house built up in the trees. We had a death. And the ladder was vertical. Getting the body out was a challenge.

What are some of the unique challenges of being a home care nurse in Appalachia, as opposed to somewhere urban?
Jason: Well again, the homes themselves, and how they’re built, present challenges. Sometimes there are no roads to them, as you saw in the film. I don’t know how they got the supplies there to build them. I have no idea why they would build a house that you have to drive up a creek to get to, or scale a cliff to get to. Also, there are trust issues. There’s actually one specific issue related to slow response time from EMS or the police. If someone breaks into your home around here, it may be two or three hours before a policeman shows up. And the criminals know this. So the people have armed themselves with guns, just for home protection against these criminals. Well, that creates a very particular risk for the nurse that’s coming there at three AM. They may be expecting you at one house, but what about the person’s backyard you have to go through to get to their house?

Do you ever feel nervous?
Jason: Oh yes. I’ve never actually been shot at on the job. But it’s amazing that I have not. [Laughs.] I know someone that has been held at gunpoint. Because especially with death, people have all these emotions. I’ve seen major fistfights erupt between family members. It’s really, really wild. And it gets really dangerous for all involved.

Jason stands by his father’s grave in the backyard of his childhood home

Jason stands by his father’s grave in the backyard of his childhood home

For a home care nurse in Appalachia, how intimate is the nurse/patient relationship?
Jason: I’ll compare that with what I’m doing right now, which is the ICU. In the ICU setting, they’re on your turf. And we have a system where we lock the families out. They’re not welcome in there except for fifteen minutes, for an allotted time. And when they are, they’re on your grounds. But when you’re there in their home, you’re the guest. And you better respect them—and I always try to respect everybody anyways. Just about every visit, there’s a standoff at the front door, especially in hospice. You have to talk your way into the home. But once you’re accepted in the home here, it is just like you’re a family member. I mean, completely. You don’t have to pack a lunch. There’ll be a full meal for you. They’ll try to get you to stay. They’ll buy you presents for Christmas.

Are they completely unused to anyone coming over who’s not family member or close friend?
Jason: Some of them have large families. They do have people that come over, but yes, usually it’s a close friend or close relative. They’re very clannish. And that’s the thing about the hills of Appalachia. Some people come here who are used to the horizon, and they say that these hills are very, very suffocating. It feels like they’re closing you in. But the people that live here feel like the hills kind of nestle them. And the hills also separate people from each other. It’s a physical barrier, but it’s also a cultural barrier. These counties are in very close proximity, but the people in the five counties that I serve live in completely different cultures. Different dialects and everything. They stay clannish and they stay within those hills. So although they’re used to people from their area coming over, someone new, like me, is different.

I imagine you only introduced the camera crew to people you were already well established with, and knew you.
Jason: Absolutely, yes. I was concerned about coming in with a camera crew. But you know what? They accepted them. Just like they were family. Because they related them to me—who they already knew, loved, and trusted.

You say that at the beginning, people are usually reluctant to even let you through the door. But somebody called you there, right?
Jason: Yes. But a lot of times, it’s not the family. It’s the doctor that knows that there’s no cure for the disease. And here’s the real hard thing about the hospice: A lot of times, especially around here, families will wait till the very last week, or the very last day of life before they contact a doctor. So you’re going into a very volatile situation. And lots of times when I’ve pulled up on the scene, there will be twenty cars or more, parked all over the lawn, and a crowd on the porch. So all eyes are on me, and I’m the savior. Because a lot of them think I’m going to come save the patient. In an odd way, it feels like a rock star moment.

If people think that you’re going to be able to do something you can’t do, how difficult is it for you to come on that scene and tell them there isn’t much you can do other than keep the patient comfortable?
Jason: It’s very difficult, and I’ve learned how to handle it well. I usually come in as a friend, I’m a little bit sly about it. I don’t hit it head-on. A lot of nurses will do that, they’ll be too direct, and that’s just not the right thing to do. You have to kind of come in from the side, get their guard down. I always start talking about something else, and then come back to the subject. And it’s still very hard, and some family members are more dramatic than others. With some of them, surprisingly, you get no response. And then some of them will overreact. I mean things you wouldn’t think an adult would do. Screaming, yelling, rolling on the ground. I’ve had to pull people off of corpses, and I’ve seen people that are still trying feed those corpses.

Jason Short is interviewd in his childhood bedroom in Appalachia

Jason Short is interviewd in his childhood bedroom in Appalachia

Do your patients let their illnesses get way out of hand before they seek health care?
Jason: Oh yes. Every time. And that’s why education is so important. I treated a lady that had a tumor that grew on her head for twenty years. It looked like an exterior brain. It was very vascular, and it would bleed. And it had such a foul odor. She had to wear a turban over gauze. This is how this lady was walking around, with no medical intervention. I don’t know how or why you would let something like that go that long, and it did end up taking her life. And people let other things go, like congestive heart failure. I’ve seen people’s legs swollen to the point where they bust, and they haven’t been to the doctor. Sometimes, I would even go into the home and wind up giving care to the family members, because I’d see somebody sitting over in a chair who’s in worse shape than the patient. And they’re the onestrying to take care of the patient. And that’s another thing: There have been situations where these hospitals will release patients home, when there’s no real caregiver in the home.

What can be done to educate people, so that they’ll learn how to manage their conditions better?
Jason: We’ve got the health department, but I want there to be a real force, a clinic that reaches out, sends people to homes—that doesn’t just sit there and say, come to us. Because they’re not going to come to you. And they’re not going to listen the first time. You have to be very persistent. You have to show them, not just give them a pamphlet.

Working as a nurse in Appalachia clearly carries difficult challenges, yet I get the sense that you wouldn’t want to work anywhere else. Can you talk about that?

Jason: I grew up here. And I see the faults in myself, and I see the faults in the people of this region. But I also see the extreme good in them, and the love that they have. And I see the extreme need. Need for nurturing, need for education. These people need help. And there aren’t a lot of people willing to give the kind of help that they need. So it takes a lot of self-sacrifice. And one of the sacrifices is staying here.

Jason: I grew up here. And I see the faults in myself, and I see the faults in the people of this region. But I also see the extreme good in them, and the love that they have. And I see the extreme need. Need for nurturing, need for education. These people need help. And there aren’t a lot of people willing to give the kind of help that they need. So it takes a lot of self-sacrifice. And one of the sacrifices is staying here.

– Interviews Conducted, Transcribed & Edited by David Teich

The_American_Nurse_Project_Poster

About the Filmmaker
Known internationally for her socially proactive medium-format photographic portraiture, Carolyn Jones is also an award-winning filmmaker, having worked in a wide variety of film and video formats, primarily in documentary production. Her most widely acclaimed book, Living Proof: Courage in the Face of AIDS, was published by Abbeville Press and was accompanied by shows in Tokyo, Berlin, the USA, and at the United Nations World AIDS Conference. In addition to her multiple exhibitions, book and magazine publications, Carolyn has collaborated on projects with Oxygen Media, PBS, the Girl Scouts of the USA, and an extensive list of corporate clients. She founded the non-profit 100 People Foundation for which she travels the world telling stories that celebrate our global neighbors.

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Twitter: @amnurseproject

 

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