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Nurses on the Big Screen

New documentary showcases the challenging and diverse world of nursing.

Identifying yourself as a nurse is never really the end of your job description. Whether you work in an emergency department, NICU, MICU, operating room, outpatient clinic, school district or the myriad other nursing specialties, you know nursing is one of the most diverse careers imaginable, and each point of care or specialty brings with it specific challenges.

While these varied job descriptions and unique challenges make nursing a rewarding and fulfilling career for the more than 3.1 million registered nurses in the U.S., according to the American Nurses Association, it also makes it difficult for those outside the profession to answer the question: "Who are nurses and what do they do?"

And with policy reform keeping healthcare at the tip of the tongue these days, understanding the integral role nurses play in each and every patient's care is paramount.

Behind the Scenes

Documentary filmmaker Kathy Douglas, MHA, RN, film director, NURSES If Florence Could See Us Now, chief nursing officer, API Healthcare, and president, On Nursing Excellence (ONE), decided it was time to let nurses of all specialties answer the questions themselves.

She set out to create a documentary that encompassed as much of the nursing profession as possible, and in an authentic way. The documentary was a project of ONE, a 501(c)3 whose purpose is to expand the effectiveness, efficiency, well-being and recognition of the healthcare workforce. The film fit the organization's mission perfectly by raising awareness of the work nurses do on a daily basis.

WITH FLORENCE: Karen K. Kirby, executive producer, NURSES film (left) poses with Betty Long, president, Guardian Nurses Healthcare Advocates (right), who dressed as Florence Nightingale to highlight the film title's nod to the role Nightingale played in the development of modern nursing. ADVANCE thanks Drexel University Online.

Douglas said the vision behind her feature-length documentary, NURSES If Florence Could See Us Now, was two-fold: 1) to help the public, policy makers and healthcare leaders better understand nursing as a profession to facilitate more informed decisions as they reshape healthcare for the future: and 2) to recognize all nurses for the extraordinary work they do every day.

Douglas explained the film's title acknowledges Florence Nightingale's role in developing modern nursing, and she hopes the film will help continue Nightingale's nursing practices and advocacy.

"Florence would love the fact that nursing is prominently at the table and often taking the lead in transforming healthcare systems to meet the real needs of patients, families and communities," Gloria Donnelly, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean of Drexel University's College of Nursing and Health Professions, Philadelphia, said in a press release. "Florence legitimized nursing as a profession, and nurses today are legitimizing our leadership role in transforming healthcare."

Seeing Is Believing

The documentary grew from the more than 100 nurses representing the varied roles nurses play who Douglas and her team interviewed from across the country. Because she was looking for the real deal, Douglas ditched traditional scripting or even prepping, and instead showed up camera in hand and let nurses have their say during candid conversations.

"We were interested in nursing from the nurses' perspective, not an outside perspective, and we wanted to capture them in a raw and authentic way," Douglas said. "Our intention was that we would get the clearest picture of nursing if we just let them talk. This proved to be very powerful; as they spoke of their experiences, their feelings, their roles, a very real picture of nursing today formed."

The film's subtitle, "Through the eyes and voices of nurses, a rare look into their world," clues viewers into the film's methodology and intentions.

Philly Premiere

While the documentary's world premiere touched hearts and minds in Los Angeles in conjunction with the American Nurses Credentialing Center's National Magnet Conference, October 2012, it was also a huge success at the Drexel University Online-sponsored Philadelphia premiere in early December."It was more than I expected," said Nat'e Parker-Guyton, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, CPHIMS, chief clinical informatics officer, Mercy Health System. "I was overwhelmed with joy and pride and moved to tears to see how the profession of nursing represents diverse aspects of caring."

Photo Gallery

NURSES If Florence Could See Us Now

Local nurse leaders and experts enjoy a night out at the Philadelphia premiere of the new nursing documentary

Nurse leaders and experts joined film executives and Drexel University faculty at the Prince Music Theater to view the film and hear from many of those involved in its production.

"It was a great opportunity to share this film with our healthcare partners and their nurses," said Jamila Winder, vice president, Business Development, Drexel University Online.

"We felt this film demonstrated the care, passion and commitment nurses in Philadelphia and beyond exemplify every day," Winder said. "It was important for Drexel University Online to support bringing this film to Philadelphia and show our continued commitment to the profession."

The film featured several Philadelphia-area facilities, including Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia; University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Philadelphia; and Kirby Bates Associates, Bala Cynwyd.

The Message

Douglas hopes viewers walked away from the film with a deeper appreciation for the very important roles nurses play in the lives of individuals and in society as a whole. She also hopes the film will raise awareness and increase support for the profession.

Her hopes may have already come true, as Philadelphia premiere goers expressed heart-felt appreciation for the film and its representation of nursing.

"It was a phenomenal documentary," said Parker-Guyton. "The story captured the essence of nursing and I believe Florence Nightingale would be proud of us!"

For Drexel University Online, the film brought something special to campus that will give nursing students something to think about.

"This film shows the diversity of the nursing profession," Winder said. "Nursing has evolved beyond just being a staff nurse at the bedside. The film gives nursing students an inside look into the opportunities that exist within the profession and it brought real stories to the forefront."

Whether viewers are students just starting their nursing careers or veteran nurses who have seen it all, this film has something to offer. It brings to the big screen the intellect, compassion and personal drive every nurse exhibits on a daily basis, and it provides a window into their hearts and minds as they care for each and every patient.

"I would recommend all nurses take the opportunity to view this film," Parker-Guyton concluded. "I would also recommend all nursing schools and healthcare organizations require new, aspiring nurses and experienced nurses to view the documentary either at nursing orientation or a staff meeting.

"I am pleased to represent a profession that honors its history and has evolved to ensure its relevance now and in years to come!"

Rebecca Hepp is on staff at ADVANCE.

To learn more about the film or request information on screenings, visit the film's website here. You can also follow NURSES If Florence Could See Us Now on ONE's facebook page.

Articles Archives

I was an active nurse for 30 years and still happy to be called on to help in my community.
It is almost impossible to find the correct words to describe the meaning of the word "nursing", but I feel very proud to be part of that genre that is still held
in high esteem by a society that denigrates so many service fields..

doreen sheinman,  retiredFebruary 10, 2013
west palm beach, FL

Bravo to documentary filmmaker Kathy Douglas, MHA, RN for her feature-length documentary and her vision for the film, NURSES If Florence Could See Us Now. Barco’s Nightingales Foundation salutes the many generations of nurses for their tremendous contribution in making the world a better place for each of us. Together, we can all support the vitality and courageous heart of nursing and to recognize all nurses for the extraordinary work they do every day, and as Ms. Douglas stated, to show our deeper appreciation for the very important roles nurses play in the lives of individuals and in society as a whole. Together, we can raise awareness and increase support for the profession.

Barco’s Nightingales Foundation is dedicated to honoring the spirit of those women and men who choose nursing by focusing our philanthropic efforts on helping to mend the lives of children and their families.

We invite you to join us as we continue to celebrate nurses and the profession of nursing at

Phyllis January 18, 2013

After almost 40 years in nursing and a career that has led me through years in ER with diversions into industrial health,home health, education and agency nursing, I am intrigued that you are giving voice to all the talented people who work to provide care in all the myriad areas of nursing. What a great idea. I can't wait to view it! There is no better career on earth.

Debrah Wiley-Sloan,  District #3 Nurse,  Neoga CUSD #3January 16, 2013
Neoga , IL

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