"When I'm a bedside nurse, I can only impact one person at a time, but if I'm good at research, I can impact countless numbers of people," Kozachik says.

Although she's been teaching for nearly a decade, she says she will always be a nurse. "Everything I do is still framed as a nurse," she says. "Everything I do in the lab has clear clinical applicability."

When she learned last spring that Jones was looking for nurses to photograph, Kozachik eagerly responded.

"I'm really wanting to put forth a positive view of nursing," Kozachik says. "The media often portrays nurses as the drug addict, the sexpot, the ditz. I think it's unfortunate that our profession has suffered to make money for the television industry. ... I wanted to see that we're more than we're portrayed in the media."

Hershaw Davis Jr., a nurse in the Johns Hopkins Hospital emergency department, says he also agreed to participate in the book and website project to help give a more accurate portrayal of nurses.

"It's the first book of its kind that actually tells the story of the American nurse," he says. "You are hearing the voices of the American nurse in this book."

In the book and website video, Davis describes the first time he saw emergency room doctors crack open the chest of a stabbing victim in an effort to save his life. "It was rough, but somehow I got through it," he recalls in the book.

Davis says he didn't know any male nurses when he was growing up, and even though more men are now in the profession, he sometimes encounters patients and their families who are surprised that such a burly guy is a nurse.

"I've had some interesting reactions," says Davis, who has earned the nickname "gentle giant."

"The American Nurse" is in its second printing, and Jones has more stories to tell. She plans to take her camera on the road again this spring, photographing and interviewing nurses in Texas and the Pacific Northwest.

A photo exhibition is likely and possibly a documentary, she says. "We're not finished with this yet."

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About the book

"The American Nurse," by Carolyn Jones. Welcome Books, $60

Proceeds go to the American Nurses Foundation to provide nursing scholarships.

More information: americannurseproject.com

See more photos and read an interview with the author at The Baltimore Sun's Dark Room.