Recently, I was caring for a patient diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. He was a young man with tattoos and a muscular frame whose strong body was just beginning to fail him. In the course of making my hourly rounds I asked if there was anything he needed that I could provide for him. "I wish you could just tell me I won't die." Well, what could I say?

I have learned through the years (and blogger Deb Christensen agrees) that many times it is our presence and listening ears that mean more to our patients than anything else we can say or do. As oncology nurses we need to be calm and accepting in the face of grief or anger. We must focus more on being in the present with our patients and less on doing.

I stopped what I was doing, sat by his side, and held his hand as he tried to hide the tear slipping from his eye. He didn't need me to bring him medications, remind him of his diagnosis, walk him to the bathroom, or give him false hope. He didn't care about my degrees or certifications. He just needed me to listen and to be present with him. In the busyness of our days, charting, documenting, administering medications, and calling doctors, we need to remember that many times it is the calming and accepting presence of a nurse that our patients need the most.