From: Presbyterian Church USA
Parish nursing is a growing specialty practice of nursing, recognized by the American Nursing Association. It is also a ministry that is embraced by many different Christian denominations. Registered nurses also serve in similar capacities in several other faith traditions.
Parish nurses are registered nurses, most of whom have several years’ (or more) nursing experience in hospital-based or community-based settings. Parish nurse basic preparation classes are available in many locations, from coast-to-coast in the continental US (as well as Hawaii and Alaska), and in several other countries on five continents.
Philosophy of Parish Nursing
Parish nursing is a recognized specialty practice that combines professional nursing and health ministry. Parish nursing emphasizes health and healing within a faith community. The philosophy of parish nursing embraces four major concepts: spiritual formation; professionalism; shalom as health and wholeness; and community, incorporating culture and diversity.
SPIRIT - The spiritual dimension is central to parish nursing practice. Personal spiritual formation is an ongoing, essential component of practice for the parish nurse and includes both self-care and hospitality, through opening the heart to self and others. Spiritual formation is an intentional process of intimacy with God to foster spiritual growth.
ROOTS - The parish nurse role reclaims the historic roots of professional nursing. Aspects of health and healing found in many faith traditions are embodied in the role of the parish nurse. The parish nurse practices under the scope and standards of practice and the ethical code of nursing as set forth in their country.
SHALOM - The parish nurse understands health to be a dynamic process that embodies the spiritual, psychological, physical, and social dimensions of the person. Shalom, God's intent for harmony and wholeness, serves as a foundation for understanding health. A sense of well being can exist in the presence of imbalance, and healing can exist in the absence of cure.
COMMUNITY - The practice of parish nursing focuses on a faith community. The parish nurse, in collaboration with the pastoral staff and congregants, participates in the ongoing transformation of the faith community into sources of health and healing. Through partnership with other community health resources, parish nursing fosters new and creative responses to health and wellness concerns. Parish nurses appreciate that all persons are sacred and must be treated with respect and dignity. The parish nurse serves the faith community, creates safe and sacred places for healing, and advocates with compassion, mercy, and dignity.
Root Assumptions of Parish Nursing
Parish nursing is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and the historic practice of professional nursing, and is consistent with the basic assumptions of many faiths that we care for self and others as an expression of God's love.
Parish nursing is an idea born out of the understanding of the healing ministry of the church and the need to return to health care that focuses on the whole person to emphasize wellness, disease prevention, and health promotion.
Because they focus on wellness, disease prevention and health promotion, parish nurses often provide health screenings for congregations.
Sometimes called the Minister of Health, a parish nurse is a registered nurse with additional training who serves members of the congregation and often people in the community as well. The role of a parish nurse is not primarily to deal with sickness but more significantly to be:
- a health educator and teacher to promote healthy lifestyles and help people understand the relationships between lifestyle, faith and well-being
- a personal health counselor to help people sort out health problems and make appropriate plans for handling them
- a communication link and support for community health resources and services, to provide referrals and be a liaison for the church and its members
- a teacher of volunteers to recruit members and train them to carry out a range of supportive services
- an organizer of health support groups to assist groups in the congregation with particular concerns
- a resource to assist with the assessment of congregational and community health needs.
The parish nurse program affirms the church as a place for prevention of illness or "disease," as it teaches and supports us in living with "ease" physically, spiritually, emotionally and socially.
Churches struggle in ministry in many areas in which the parish nurse can open new opportunities. For example, developing ministry to and with families affected by mental illness, health concerns of elderly people, and nurturing young families are ways in which the church is called upon to minister to its parishioners in new ways.
Substance abuse, addictions, and violence within the family are areas in which the parish nurse can be an initial contact point in ministry to develop or strengthen education programs.
There are a variety of models in which churches are able to obtain registered nurses to be on the church staff, such as:
- Congregation as sponsor
- Hospital sponsor
- Community agency as sponsor
- Joint sponsorship
Larger churches have employed the parish nurse full time, while smaller congregations typically join in sharing a nurse as a part time staff.
Each of these models offers a different set of advantages to the church. Some will provide strength by creating alliances in the community or with other churches. Others offer a strong support system for the parish nurse and clergy. One model will work will in your church.