A parish nurse is a registered nurse who serves a church or parish in a volunteer or paid position. In order to become a Parish Nurse, you must first get a nursing degree. Most parish nurses have many years of nursing experience before becoming parish nurses. The job of a parish nurse requires one to be able to call upon this experience when addressing various health situations.
Various training programs exist to prepare parish nurses. Most range from 30 to 40 hour courses, offered in the nursing or theology departments, medical centers, hospitals, or interfaith institutions. Several programs offer distance learning options. Content in Parish Nurse courses evolve around the role of health educator, personal health counselor, integrator of faith and health, health advocate, referral agent, support group facilitator, and coordinator of volunteers. Courses also focus on the history and philosophy of parish nursing, assessment, legal implications, team ministry, documentation, pastoral care, spiritual distress, etc. There is also ongoing training, many times on a monthly basis to keep abreast of current treatments, referral sources, etc.
Most of the time, parish nurses are connected to a church congregation, serving in a variety of ways as they strive to promote health for the whole person, addressing physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. They act in the role of health educators, personal health counselors, health advocates, referral agents, coordinates of volunteers, and integrators of health and wellness. They can be viewed as a bridge between the healthcare system and the church, as they practice on an independent level under the standards of parish nursing and licensure in their state.