Nursing Practice and Presence

During a recent meeting with my NCF chapter, our group leaders focused on a nursing skill that I hadn’t thought about in some time: “Teach Back: A Method of Confirming Understanding.” It’s something we go over in nursing school, teaching patients in such a way that they can teach us the skill or information they need to learn.

I’ve always been struck by how well the experienced nurses in this group tie together Gospel living with nursing practice. During this session, two members of the group used the example of insulin administration to show an effective teaching session; then the two remaining members of the group gave encouragement and suggestions. In this short example, we were able to point out things like what fruits of the Spirit, as mentioned in Galatians, might be utilized here.

Galatians 5:22-23: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (NLT)

Much of this session spoke to a concept that’s hard for busy nurses: To effectively teach, regardless of how busy you might feel, being fully present must become a regular discipline. This means intentionally peeling ourselves away from distractions in order to be wholly engaged. For the nurse who follows Jesus, being fully present with a patient means seeing him or her as Christ does, engaging the person the way Jesus has engaged with us.

In the book, The Practice of the Presence of God, author Brother Lawrence reflected on what it means to live constantly present with God. Combined with the material from the NCF meeting, I felt challenged to practice the discipline of presence in two ways.

1. Reaching out to God regularly throughout the day.

Imagine it this way: There are times in the car or on walks with my husband that I will reach out and take hold of his hand. There are no demands, no questions, just an acknowledgment of presence, of my wanting to be physically connected.

In the preface of Brother Lawrence’s book, Father Beaufort (the recipient of Brother Lawrence’s letters) writes, “... when sometimes [Brother Lawrence] had not thought of God for a good while, he did not disquiet himself for it; but after having acknowledged his wretchedness to God, he returned to him with so much the greater trust in Him, as he had found himself wretched through forgetting him. That the trust we put in God honors him much, and draws down great graces.”

This isn’t an exercise meant to condemn failures; it’s an exercise in trust. It’s a reaching out to God in all moments of life to stay connected to his rhythms, to see if he anything in those moments has for me to pay attention to. This requires reliance on grace not to condemn myself when I fail. It’s a constant, quiet way of standing in wonder with God who is ever present with me.

2. Pay attention to moments that I could be more “present” to people around me

One thing that pulled me toward nursing was how tangibly nurses could show the love, care, and sacrifice Jesus demonstrates through Scripture. The day-to-day humdrum of life sometimes drowns out how astounding it is that I can demonstrate that kind of care to others. I can’t quite work miracles of healing like Jesus did, but I’ve learned how significant small things can be for people.

Practicing Presence

  • When are times during the day that I can make sure I’m engaged with the people God has placed in front of me to care for?
  • For a skill like teach-back, am I making sure patients are demonstrating or reiterating to me what they’ve learned with a thorough understanding?
  • Do I need to write down instructions?
  • Are there resources I can send patients home with?
  • Am I making eye contact?
  • Are my feet pointed toward patients, rather than facing away, ready to leave?
  • How can I embody the tangible presence of God, demonstrating the well-quoted fruits of the Spirit in order to bring those I serve a sense of who Jesus is?

Jennifer Lim, RN, BSN, OCN, works as an oncology nurse in Chicago suburb. She can also be found on, which is dedicated to reflections and content related to faith and health. 

Visit the Resources page of the NCF website for books and Bible studies related to spiritual formation and spiritual disciplines.

Like Jennifer, you can join an in-person or virtual NCF group for students or for professional nurses.


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