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Inspiring Nurse Story: The Gift of Presence
Date Posted: 25/Dec/2012


Here's an inspiring nurse story for people who wish to feel the joy and value of giving. Not literally gifts but the mere thought of giving something because it is Christmas.
Christmas Eve has always been my favorite day of the year.  I love the thrill of joining the hustle and bustle of last minute shoppers and the general excitement of the day. In fact, I always save a few last minute items to purchase on this day to have an excuse to go shopping. For me, it has always been a day of joyful anticipation and feelings of happiness. On Christmas Eve 2008, I gained a new perspective of Christmas Eve and the Christmas season in general. That year, I learned about the gift of Presence and the true meaning of Christmas.
That Christmas Eve, we arrived home from a family celebration to find our home in flames. As we watched our home and everything we owned burn to the ground, I experienced many emotions. 
For a while I felt desperate, wanting to run into the house to grab anything of sentimental value. As the firefighters worked to keep us away and to explain that we could not enter our home, we helplessly watched as all of our material possessions vanished and our life drastically changed. The feelings of desperation and the desire to take action soon became a feeling of numbness and shock. 
As word spread throughout our community, we found ourselves surrounded by many of our family and friends. God’s loving presence was greatly manifested through the individuals He sent to minister to us on that night and the days that followed. There was nothing that anyone could do to replace what was lost. No one was able to bring back our home, our belongings, or our dog. But there was a powerful gift provided in their quiet presence. When we were too numb to pray we knew others were praying on our behalf. It brought great comfort to me and my family to know that we were not alone.
As nurses, we often feel the need to fix everything and we are uncomfortable when we are helpless and unable to offer our nursing skill or service to improve the situation. In reality, there are many times when we cannot make a situation better for our patients and their families, but there is something greatly needed that we are well equipped to provide. That is our presence. This presence goes beyond just being physically close in proximity. It is being fully aware of the moment and intentionally focusing on the situation at hand. This is often hard for nurses because we feel the need to multitask and operate at warp speed.
I have often worked with patients and family members during times of tragedy. I always felt the need to be busy and I was uncomfortable when I did not have something active to do to make a patient’s situation better. Now, I realize that one of the most beneficial things I can do in providing patient care is to simply be present during their time of need, giving them my full attention. There may be no words to say or no advanced nursing skills to offer. I may be unable to change the outcome. But I now know that my caring presence can provide a source of comfort that can have lasting effects. 
Nurses have the awesome privilege to combine our knowledge and skills with the gift of presence during times of joy and grief. We are given the opportunity to be with individuals at some of the greatest times in their lives and also at some of the most tragic. This is a privilege that carries great responsibility. I’m afraid we often neglect to realize the full extent of this privilege and miss the opportunities our position affords.
This Christmas, many of our colleagues will be present as a new life enters our world, while others will be holding the hand of someone who is dying.  Many will be present when families face tragedy or a devastating diagnosis.  Some will have the opportunity to share Christmas Eve or Christmas morning with a child who is unable to be in his/her own home. I am proud to be a part of nursing, an honorable profession that provides comfort and care during these times, when so many feel alone and scared. 
So, wherever you may be on these special days, let this inspiring nurse story guide you all throughout your nursing career. I ask you to join me in praying for our colleagues who are being present with those who are facing a less-than jolly Christmas. If you are one of the special nurses asked to share your day providing nursing care, consider it an honor and privilege and know that there are many of us who will be praying for you as you demonstrate care and compassion to those who need it the most. 
While we enjoy all the wonders of the Christmas season, I ask you to remember those who may be facing uncertainty or tragedy. Remember your colleagues who may have difficult situations at home.  Remember why you became a nurse. Remember why your stories can serve as inspirations to others. You have much to offer to those who could benefit the most from your experiences, knowledge, skills, and presence. 
I still love to celebrate Christmas and enjoy the excitement of the season.  But, I now more clearly realize the true meaning of the season because of the love shown to my family during our time of tragedy. My nursing story is a wonderful representation of what God did for us so many years ago when he graced us with His presence in the form of a tiny infant, His Son Jesus Christ. I pray you will share God’s love through your gift of presence with those who desperately need to know they are not alone. It may be one of the best gifts YOU receive.
Merry Christmas!
About the Author: Teresa “Tese” Maggard Stephens, PhD Candidate, MSN, RN, completed her BSN in 1987 at East Tennessee State University and spent the next 20+ years working as a registered nurse and finding ways to satisfy her love for teaching. Her areas of clinical practice include emergency/trauma, community health (school nursing), and trauma research. She has worked as a nurse educator in the hospital and community settings, as well as adjunct faculty in the academic setting. In 2009, she completed her MSN with a focus in Nursing Education at King College. She is currently in dissertation phase of her PhD (Nursing Education) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
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