CLEVELAND — "I fall in love with being a nurse every day," University Hospital nurse Stephanie Harper said. "Making a difference in peoples' lives is a remarkable feeling."
For patients, the face of a nurse is a face of healing, strength and hope.
"Nursing is a calling," said UH Clinical Nurse Elizabeth Blazunas. "At the root of nursing is taking care of others and helping them on their way to wellness."
For nurses, what they do is more than a job.
"It's a privilege to step into someone's humanity and reality and to help guide them through that," said Emily McClung.
They are lifelines when life becomes all too fragile.
"I am reminded often why I became a nurse, but there's nothing more rewarding than falling in love with my job every day," Harper said.
Photographer Angelo Merendino knows the impact a nurse can have.
"They were just compassionate, kind, caring people that made such a difference for us," Merendino said. "At times it's what got us through the most difficult of days."
Difficult days came for Merendino and his wife, Jen, when she was diagnosed with cancer just five months after they got married.
"We saw our nurses more than we saw our family," he said. "We started to develop a connection as human beings that was beyond just medical treatment."
His wife lost her battle with cancer back in 2011, but it's the humanity shown by her nurses that has lived on for Angelo.
"They were our lifeline," he said. "They were the glue that held things together. They were the people that were consistently going above and beyond to help us."
In an effort to show his gratitude, he has spent the last couple of months photographing and interviewing more than 30 nurses. He also asked them a simple question: 'Why they wanted to become nurses?' It's a gallery that he calls 'A Privilege Unlike Anything Else,' which is now on display at Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and MetroHealth.
CLOSER LOOK: Explore more of this photo exhibit
While a picture they say is worth a thousand words, for nurses, often a "thank you" is the most appreciated for the selfless work that do.
"They are appreciated," Merendino said.