Presence is when the nurse is centered and focused in the moment of what the patient is currently experiencing. Other categories of presence include caring, nurturance, empathy, physical closeness and physical touch (2). When the nurse is truly present, the nurse is allowed to experience what the patient is feeling (3). Presence is a nursing intervention that can be used in situations where there is nothing more that you can do but BE THERE by being supportive, physically close, offering a touch, or sitting in silence (2). Sitting quietly with your patient in times of need can communicate so much more than any words, even if it is for just a moment.

In contrast a “non-present” nurse would be aloof, outside the situation, or preoccupied with other thoughts though physically present (1). This is the tension you will experience as a new nurse. You will be focused on the “tasks” to be done for your patient, and not “present” in a way that will communicate and demonstrate caring. Give yourself grace to grow and develop as a new nurse, knowing that you will be focused on the tasks that need to be completed, but as you develop a greater proficiency you will soon find yourself having the additional time to be present to your patients.

Presence is also recognized as a nursing intervention by the Nursing Interventions Classifications (NIC). Specific NIC interventions that reflect the use of nurse presence include the following that you can incorporate into your practice:

  • Demonstrate accepting attitude.
  • Verbally communicate empathy or understanding of the patient’s experience.
  • Establish patient trust.
  • Listen to the patient’s concern.
  • Touch the patient to express concern as appropriate.
  • Remain physically present without expecting interactional responses (4).

References

1. Benner, P., & Wrubel, J. (1989). Primacy of caring: Stress and coping in health and illness. Menlo Park,CA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.
2. Rex-Smith, A. (2007). Something more than presence. Journal of Christian Nursing, 24(2), 82-87.
3. Faas, A.I. (2004). The intimacy of dying: An act of presence. Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing, 23(1), 76-78.
4. Cavendish, R., Konecny, L., Mitzeliotis, C., Russo, D., Kraynyak, B., L., Lanza, M., et al. (2003). Spiritual care activities of nurses using nursing interventions classifications (NIC) labels. International Journal of Nursing Terminology Classifications, 16, 120-121.

The following is an excerpt from my new book: THINK Like a Nurse: Practical Preparation for Professional Practice/chapter 1: Foundation: The “Art” of Nursing