May 1, 2007

CONTACT: Marc Kaplan
(215) 662-2560

Photo Exhibit Provides Intimate Look at the Intensity and
Responsibility of Being Just a Nurse
Award-Winning Writer and Photographer Team with PENN Medicine to
Highlight Critical Role – and Need – of Nurses

(PHILADELPHIA) –Just a Nurse, an exhibit of nearly 100 photographs that capture the rigors and rewards of nursing, opens today at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP).  The exhibit runs May 1 – 18, and coincides with National Nurses Week (May 6 – 12).  It features the work of photographer Earl Dotter and writer Suzanne Gordon, journalists renowned for their ability to chronicle “on the job” heroism and sacrifice.

Nurses from all 40 HUP units were photographed and interviewed through the fall and winter. The exhibit illustrates the wide range of roles and responsibilities nursing entails, and the intense day-to-day pace at a major, 772-bed urban academic medical center. 

“It was a privilege to work alongside them and see firsthand the critical difference nurses make to patients at such personal and usually difficult times of their lives,” said Dotter.  “Their knowledge, passion and sheer stamina were exhilarating to photograph.”

Gordon is the author of numerous books and articles on nursing and a national commentator on the escalating shortage of registered nurses.  “Nurses are a critical link in helping us solve our health care crisis,” she said. “We desperately need to raise awareness of nursing’s importance and encourage more young people to enter the profession.”

“Earl and Suzanne have given a voice to the too-often silent story of nurse’s vital role in patient care,” said Victoria Rich, PhD, Chief Nursing Officer and Associate Executive Director at HUP.  “Nurses are microbiologists, chemists and scientists.  They are strong patient advocates.  We need to make sure more people know about, seek out and benefit from their expertise.”

According to the American Hospital Association, U.S. hospitals need more than 100,000 registered nurses and have a vacancy rate of 8.5 percent.  The January/February 2007 issue of Health Affairs reports that the nursing shortage is expected to triple by 2020, to 340,000.

 “These remarkable photographs and interviews tell a compelling story about a vital profession that can no longer be in the background,” said Rich. “Our goal is that the exhibit serves not only as a salute to the exceptional work nurses are doing today, but that it inspires others to take up the calling.”

Just a Nurse continues through May 18 in the Mezzanine of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Ravdin Mezzanine [floor plan], 3400 Spruce Street [driving directions].  It can be viewed daily from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and admission is free. The public is also invited to attend a ceremony to kick off National Nurses Week at the exhibit on May 7, from 4:00 – 5:30 p.m., where Rich, Dotter, Gordon and other dignitaries will speak.

Editor’s Notes:  Photos from the exhibit are available for media use. 

Following the public ceremony on May 7, there will be a reception for invited guests only; media wishing to attend the reception should contact Marc Kaplan at (215) 349-5660 or

Victoria L. Rich, PhD, was appointed Chief Nursing Officer for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) in January 2002. She also serves as Associate Executive Director and is an Assistant Dean of Clinical Practice at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. As a senior hospital administrator, Rich directs inpatient and outpatient nursing and manages a $180,000,000 budget.  A strong advocate for the nursing field, she is the Project Director of the Seedling Program, Nursing Development Careers Scholarship for Under Privileged Certified Nursing Assistants, by the Board of Women Visitors at HUP. An acknowledged expert on patient safety and staff dynamics,  Rich frequently presents at national and international conferences and has published in such leading journals as the Journal of Emergency Medicine, Critical Pathways in Cardiology and American Journal of Nursing.

Earl Dotter’s photographs of occupational subjects span more than three decades and numerous industries. His photography focuses not just on the subject’s work, but the person’s life on the job, at home and in the community.  It has been cited for “leading the way in portraying the dignity of working people,” featured in exhibits sponsored by the Harvard School of Public Health and earned him a Josephine Patterson Albright Fellowship from the Alicia Patterson Foundation.  He has been honored by the American Public Health Association and Robert F. Kennedy Book Awards and was featured in a Columbia Journalism Review profile.

Suzanne Gordon is an award-winning journalist and author who has written for The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Atlantic Monthly and other leading publications.  She’s the author of six books, including Life Support: Three Nurses on the Front Lines and Nursing Against the Odds: How Health Care Cost Cutting, Media Stereotypes, and Medical Hubris Undermine Nurses and Patient Care, and co-author of From Silence to Voice: What Nurses Know and Must Communicate to the Public. She has been a health care commentator for American Public Media’s “Marketplace,” a Visiting Professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing, an Assistant, Adjunct Professor at the University of California San Francisco’s School of Nursing, and is co-editor of the Cornell University Press series on “The Culture and Politics of Health Care Work.” 


PENN Medicine is a $2.9 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn's School of Medicine is ranked #2 in the nation for receipt of NIH research funds; and ranked #3 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report's most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System includes three hospitals, all of which have received numerous national patient-care honors [Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center]; a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty satellite facilities; and home care and hospice.

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