One of the most intimate and beautiful aspects of being a nurse is what I like to call the “ministry of presence.” It’s the ability to heal just by being present. You may have heard this in a palliative context where someone will say “just knowing he/she was there helped me get through it” or in comforting a friend, “you don’t have to say anything – just be there for me.” In the clinical context, this is most frequently phrased “nurses spend the most time at the bedside” or “nurses are always there when you need them.” In a way, the phrase is about availability, but in a more broad and interpersonal sense, it’s about being in community.
I spoke about this ministry of presence in my personal statement for medical school, where I reflected on a nursing colleague and I having a conversation about finding one’s direction in life. I had challenged her with the question “how does one know one’s calling in life?” to which she responded “ask yourself ‘how did God create your heart to love.'” This was a profound response for me as I had never had such an answer hit me so directly between the eyes. It was a convicting answer. I knew that I had to be able to say that my occupation allowed me to heal. I found the answer to this question in healthcare because I found that just by being a tangible, hopeful presence in the lives of my patients, I was able to heal them.