1. Belcher, David associate editor

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The second-place winner in AJN sphotojournalism contest, The Faces of Caring: Nurses at Work, Robert Ostermaier's cover photograph was taken as part of a series of articles and photographs on the hospice care of veterans published in August 2004 in the Daily Press in Newport News, Virginia.

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In the cover photograph, nurse Lena Barker wipes the eyes of World War II veteran Robert E. Harris at the palliative care program at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Hampton, Virginia. The three-part series was originally to be focused on hospice, Ostermaier explains, but the center quickly became Harris's experiences-his stories of combat in the Pacific, his struggle with lung cancer, and his connection with Barker, who became his primary care-giver as he deteriorated. With reporter Stephanie Heinatz, Ostermaier depicted the evolving relationship of nurse and patient. Barker affectionately called him "Robert E." and stayed with Harris in his final hours. This photo depicts their final moments together: she said goodbye at the end of her shift on February 22, 2004; Harris died that night.


For Ostermaier, an Army veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm, photographing a four-time recipient of the Purple Heart was an extraordinary assignment. "For the year that I followed him, he was very coherent, and it was great to hear about his experiences in the war," Ostermaier says. "And what I was struck by was the ability and dedication of these nurses who work there."


The photograph on this page is one way Ostermaier depicts that intimacy: Barker cleans out the personal items from Harris's room the morning after he died. "The nurses treated everyone there like family, even though they knew what the final outcome would be," he says.


For more information on his work (and for more photos from the Daily Press series), visit