How 1 nurse practices being present with patients




(Content provided by The DAISY Foundation.)

“Being present” is a term we use easily, but what does it mean? “Maria,” my good friend and nurse colleague is known to be caring, compassionate and present with anyone she meets — which sometimes makes her late to meetings. But no one who knows her begrudges that lateness, because it means she was present with someone who needed her. When she is with you, she is truly with you in that moment. All senses are engaged in the relationship. Nurses are experts in practicing this skill even with competing timelines demanding our attention. In being present, we communicate our skills, competence and compassion without dilution. Exemplars of being present are important to share because they remind us that being present requires more than just our physical presence.

The DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses is an international recognition for nurses who deliver compassionate and extraordinary care. Allyson Scalora is a DAISY nurse honoree who understands the value and the skill of being present for her patients. Recently Allyson shared her thoughts on being present with her patients.

Allyson Scalora, RN
Allyson Scalora, RN

In her reflections to the DAISY community on what it means to be a part of a patient’s experience, Allyson wrote, “…I was reflecting on my day, thinking about my patient and how much longer she would live. I was comforted by the fact that she allowed herself to be vulnerable and express her feelings when all she had been doing up until that point was putting on a brave face for her family. We learn in nursing school about the importance of being present, although that cannot be taught. Being present, whether it is for a four-hour shift or four 12-hour-shifts, reflects what nursing at its core is and what inspires us to be better caregivers. Nursing care is patient centered and our ability to be present is where it all starts. When we initially meet our patients, our attitude and presence are more important than any task or intervention we can provide. If we are not present while caring for our patients then we may miss many pivotal, intangible moments: a look, a sigh, a smile.

“As a nurse, being present brings intrinsic value to our practice. Being present evokes trust, the hallmark of our profession. The nursing process walks us through the objective side of our patients, and expert nurses can couple this with perception or our gut feelings to provide well-rounded care. All patients want to receive quality care, but when that care is married with an emotional connection the outcomes are far reaching. When a patient has a positive experience while hospitalized they are likely to harvest feelings, emotions, or truths long after discharge. Being present is not about flow sheets and tasks, it is about our connections and shared humanity, things that make us all similar. When we can turn off our lives at home and attend to our patients with as much presence as possible, that is the true art of nursing.”

Allyson is representative of what DAISY nurses bring to the nurse-patient relationship. The DAISY Foundation recognizes nurses like Allyson for being compassionate, for being present and for being extraordinary in so many ways. This international recognition is a reminder of the importance compassion plays in providing care across many different cultures. Being present with the patient and his or her family is key to delivering compassionate and extraordinary care that should be recognized and celebrated.

The next time you care for a patient, pause and remember the importance in being present with them. It is one of many gifts that nurses bring to the patient care relationship.

For more information on the student and faculty awards and a list of recipients, visit the foundation’s website. •

Editor’s note: DAISY is an acronym for Diseases Attacking the Immune System. The DAISY Foundation was created to thank nurses for the care they provide. The foundation was formed to honor the memory of Patrick Barnes who passed away at age 33 as a result of idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura, an autoimmune disease. The acronym serves as a reminder of Barnes and why the foundation was formed.

To comment, email editor@nurse.com.


About the author
Cynthia Sweeney, RN

Cynthia Sweeney, RN 

Cynthia Sweeney, MSN, RN, CNOR, NEA-BC, is executive director of The DAISY Foundation.

2 responses to “How 1 nurse practices being present with patients”

  1. Excellent post. I value presence immensely. And while I practice (and teach) this beautiful skill… it can be difficult to do. I am curious- how does this nurse bring presence to her patient care? For example, does she use breathing techniques or does she ground her feet? I would love to hear how she practices presence with her patients. Nurses are SO super busy these days- so much so that I was hearing that they felt overwhelmed by the science of nursing. Which is why the Nurse’s Week program, The Art of Nursing, attempts to teach nurses from across the country new and innovative ways to be present with patients each day. Awesome article- sharing with the nurses I know!!

  2. I so very much appreciate this focus on being present! In 1992 my thesis for my Masters in Nursing was entitled, “Presence: Core to Caring, Nursing and Spirituality” (Marquette University, Milwaukee). Presence can be ‘taught’ but more accurately presence can be developed with daily practices, self-care is a core component of presence. I serve as faculty for a 4-day program that has supported teaching spirituality in health care of which presence is a core component. Funding this kind of program to develop awareness of presence for all roles and all levels in health care is needed in order to create an authentic caring and compassionate organizational environment for patients, their loved ones and our staff. I am proud to have this kind of support in my organization since 1993!! Staff and patients consistently say, “It feels different here.”

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