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How Can We Practice Mindful Presence?

Dunlap, Jayne Jennings

doi: 10.1097/CNJ.0000000000000615
Department: FAQs in Spiritual Care
Free

Jayne Jennings Dunlap, DNP, APRN, is an assistant clinical professor at Texas Woman's University, Houston, Texas. She is a family nurse practitioner, whose research interest is strategies to combat the average 17-year research-to-practice gap. Jayne has published and presented to many groups of healthcare professionals.

The author declares no conflict of interest.

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As nurses, we are privileged to be in the service of others across various settings. We have daily opportunities to be present with patients, families, students, and people from all walks of life. Although many nurses have a large capacity to give of themselves, in today's world of hypercommunication, distractions, and increasing nursing demands, it is easy to opt out of opportunities to fully engage.

Jesus was clear about his purpose to engage: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10, NIV). He came “not to be served but to serve...” (Matthew 20:28, NIV). Similarly, our calling as Christian nurses is focused on serving people and positively influencing others. Nursing practice represents a unique mission for kingdom work. Simple acts of healing may occur through a caring conversation, a concerned question, or a reassuring touch. We can advocate for the privilege of completing nursing work, such as helping a patient with ambulation, assisting with a bath, or giving a foot rub. As those types of tasks can be delegated to certified assistive personnel, many nurses today miss key opportunities to be present with patients. At other times, as Beth Fahlberg explains, “Presence is what we can offer when we can't do anything else, whether we're caring for a patient who's struggling valiantly to live or one who's actively dying” (Fahlberg & Roush, 2016, p. 14).

In another's vulnerable moments, we often learn what is really on a person's mind or heart. When we examine Jesus' life, we see his examples of consistently engaging and demonstrating compassion to people who were oppressed and downtrodden. Such pictures should stir us toward Christ-like humility and proactive involvement.

In endeavoring to care for another's spirit through being present, we can receive direction for how to care with our presence by intently seeking the everlasting source of all strength and wisdom through the Word of God—the Bible—and, as John 14:26 points out, the Holy Spirit. Some actions that ready us and sharpen our vision to see when caring presence is needed are:

  • Prayer for divine help to care for others;
  • Pleading for God's help, comfort, compassion, guidance, and sustainment;
  • Asking God daily to reveal opportunities to engage with patients, family members, and colleagues;
  • Provision of excellent and holistic healthcare;
  • Trusting God to meet our own deepest needs, as we care for others.

As Christian nurses, we understand the power of human and spiritual connection. Unlike other activities, we constantly have opportunity to connect and communicate with God through prayer, discerning when and how to offer presence. By inquiring about someone's stories, fears, and hopes, we communicate significance. We earn trust and become links between patients and their relationships with God and others.

Consider how each of the following questions can help you practice presence.

  • What kind of difference can be made when a nurse stops to be present with a patient who is afraid?
  • What spiritual gains might result as the Holy Spirit guides your practice?
  • When are good opportunities for you to be present with individuals and groups?
  • Where is your presence most needed daily?
  • Why did you enter the profession, and why have you stayed?
  • How can you be present with individuals while still competently completing your daily work?

We can ask similar questions in the care of our fellow healthcare professionals, as well. For instance, the next time you enter a break room and notice a sea of heads with phones in hand, refuse to give in to the status quo of a me mentality. Instead, seek out a meaningful conversation. Our work to serve people and be a godly example can be multiplied through our strategic presence in healthcare. What kind of positive and collective difference can we make by humbly offering our presence?

In humility and honor within and outside of our servanthood profession, we can meet people where they are by gifting our presence and serving as conduits to the One who holds the highest rank in all of heaven and earth.

Fahlberg B., Roush T. (2016). Mindful presence: Being “with” in our nursing care. Nursing, 46(3), 14–15. doi:10.1097/01.NURSE.0000480605.60511.09
© 2019 by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship