Therapeutic presence and other freaky stuff

I went to a rogerian nursing school, so I have been making fun of the kum-ba-ya parts of nursing for, oh, years now. Yeah, we're all connected, and we should be treating patients' astral fields or whatever. Sure. Go Martha Rogers.

It's difficult to deny that stuff happens with sick people that you can't explain with logic, though. Yeah, we operate on the principles of hard science, but there is a huge accepted element of "I just have a FEELING about this." Sometimes weird things happen and we just shrug it off ("musta been a REALLY WEIRD coincidence").

Recently I had a REALLY WEIRD experience that science cannot explain, but it made me even more of a believer in what they call "therapeutic presence" in nursing theory. I've had a lot of patients say something like "thank you for being so calm; I feel good that you're my nurse," which kills me because I'm the most tightly wound, anxious person I know. I've also attempted to be therapeutically present for situations like someone has just died suddenly and the family needs me to help them by being there, and largely those attempts have met with mediocre success. They don't care what I'm doing. It isn't about me at all.

This experience was about me personally, and I wasn't making much of an effort. The patient was, I'll just say, a typical ER patient on nightshift and leave it at that. He had been telling me his story in bits every time I was in his room, which was often, and I did have empathy for the guy.

I had to draw some blood from him, and the stick site wouldn't clot, so I ended up sitting by him for some time holding pressure on it with one hand and holding his hand with my other hand so he'd keep his arm straight. Total silence, oh-early-thirty in the morning, my brain was just idling on "I need to go start a pot of coffee." The patient spoke up: "I feel like you really understand everything I've said and genuinely want me to get better. I can tell it more by you holding my hand. Is that weird?" I was a little spooked.

Hellz yeah it's frakking weird! The guy could've just said that to some manipulative end, although I can't see what it would have been. I gave some flip answer, like, "Well, we do 'weird' pretty well here, and we're practical, so if it works, we go with it. Ahahahaha." Fact is, he had some issues I know quite a bit about, so the guy was not totally off base.

Question is: are there more things in nursing, Horatio, than science can explain? Can we touch patients and zap them with calmness or take away their pain? Can we, by our mindset during our provision of care, substantially affect our patients' outcomes? Can any of this be taught? Can we do it on purpose? I don't know. That situation has captured my attention, though, because the flip side must also be true---if I despise my patient, she can probably tell that too, regardless of how tightly I'm controlling my behavior. I need to ponder on this a lot more. Readers, share your stories and thoughts!