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Up close and personal: American Nurse Project reveals nurses’ diverse roles, settings and personalities

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Nurses’ roles are as diverse and distinct as their patients. Carolyn Jones, an award-winning filmmaker and photographer, set out across the country to delve into nurses’ diversity — and altruistic nature — and tell their stories through The American Nurse Project. Phase one of the project, Jones’ book “The American Nurse,” is a photojournalistic exploration into the unique ways in which U.S. nurses serve. The highly acclaimed book inspired more RNs to get involved in the project and uncover more untold stories.

Jones interviewed and snapped intimate photos of nurses, 75 of which were featured in “The American Nurse,” published last fall. The book’s proceeds will go to the The Fresenius Kabi American Scholarship Fund, which is a joint venture of the American Nurse Project and the American Nurses Foundation.

Rhonda Collins, RN

Rhonda Collins, RN, MSN, a native Texan who is vice president of medical devices for project sponsor Fresenius Kabi USA in Dallas, conceived the project. Collins said she wanted to recognize those who “care for life,” and explore unique nursing roles such as nurses who treat soldiers returning from war or work in impoverished Appalachian communities. “We wanted to go to places in this country that make America unique and demonstrate challenges in the country,” Collins said.

Later, Collins worked with nurse leaders, including Cole Edmonson, RN, DNP, FACHE, NEA-BC, CNO at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, to expand the project to include nurses from more states, bringing the number featured at AmericanNurseProject.com to 106. A feature-length documentary about six of those nurses is scheduled to be released in the fall.

Jane Champion, RN

When searching for RNs to represent Texas, Collins and other nurse leaders from Texas considered issues affecting the state — the uninsured and women’s, children’s and immigrants’ health concerns — and selected three nurses who work in these areas. They were recognized at the annual Texas Organization of Nurse Executives conference at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas on March 1.

One of the Texas additions was Debra DuBois, APRN, CNM, nurse midwife for the women’s health center at Texas Health Dallas, who works with refugees from Myanmar (formerly Burma). “I am in awe of the other nurses,” DuBois said. “I … hear their stories and the kind of work they are doing, and I know everyday nurses don’t always have the opportunity to know what’s going on out there. For me, it’s a chance to show the work I do every day.”

Manny Munoz, RN

Another honoree, Jane Champion, RN, PhD, DNP, FNP, FAAN, from Uvalde, Texas, is a horseback riding professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing and holds seven graduate degrees. Champion addresses women’s health issues through clinical research and runs a women’s clinic.

The third Texas honoree, Manny Munoz, RN, is a cardiac rehabilitation nurse at the Del Sol Medical Center’s cardiac rehabilitation department in El Paso. Munoz primarily works with the Hispanic population, teaching those in the community about diabetes, which is prevalent in the local demographic.

From left, Cole Edmonson, RN, DNP, CNO at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas; Lisa Dierschke-Stone, RN, BSN, Texas Health Dallas; Rhonda Collins, RN, MSN, Fresenius Kabi USA, Dallas; and Thao Nguyen, RN, BSN, RNC-NIC, CCRN, Texas Health Dallas. For the Texas Health Dallas Nurse project, Dierschke-Stone and Nguyen captured the organization’s honorees in photos and videos.

The American Nurse Project prompted a local spinoff called the Texas Health Dallas Nurse project. The hospital plans to share nurses’ photos and videos this summer on TexasHealth.org/Dallas. Edmonson hopes the project will continue to inspire other hospitals to honor their own nurses.

As for Collins, it’s all about giving back to the profession that gives so much, she said. “I’ve had nurses coming to me with tears in their eyes saying, ‘Thank you for doing this. Finally someone has allowed us to tell our story, in our voice,’” Collins said. “It has struck a chord with everybody.”

To view a photo gallery, visit www.nurse.com/gallery/American-Nurse-Project.

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Andrea Scott is a copy editor. Post a comment below or email editorSouth@nurse.com.

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