Parish Nursing and the New Grad

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    Anyone who is currently or has been a Parish Nurse, I am hoping you can share your experience. This is something I would like to do, but do have concerns as to my ability to fulfill the role. Is this a collaborative endeavor with a home health agency having done the initial assessment? Am I collaborating with the physician directly as though I was the home health RN?

    I have cared someone who is bedridden with a trach and G-tube and have experience with wound care in that setting. I am not unfamiliar with home health from a personal standpoint, but I am from a professional one.

    I recognize the parish I would be volunteering for would be the best source of information. I would certainly ask these questions of the nurses with whom I would be sharing my responsibilities, but hate to volunteer if I can't really be of any service. Just hoping someone can give me a "day in the life" sort of speak.
  2. 4 Comments so far...

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    As a parish nurse, I will be happy to address your questions.

    Parish nursing is a specialty area of nursing, and, as with all specialties, requires specific qualifications for those entering parish nursing. The person must be a registered nurse, with at least 2-5 years of experience where skills have been developed for health assessment and problem-solving. These skills and experiences will aid the parish nurse with assessment of health status, health needs, and collaboration with health agencies. The parish nurse must also complete a parish nurse basic preparation course for this specialty practice, which is recognized by the American Nurses Association.

    Although the parish nurse may collaborate with a home health agency and other health agencies to meet the needs of the client (in this case, a member of a faith community), the parish nurse is usually under the umbrella of a larger health system, such as a hospital. The parish nurse usually works within a specific congregation, but also may be called upon to meet needs of those in the community.

    The parish nurse is not a primary caregiver, but serves as a bridge between the church and the healthcare system. The parish nurse, in the role of patient advocate, may communicate directly with a physician either in the home or hospital setting to assist in care for the client.

    For information about the typical day for a parish nurse, you may go to A Typical Day for this Parish Nurse - Nursing for Nurses

    If you have further questions regarding parish nursing please post them here, or feel free to contact me via private message.
    Moogie likes this.
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    Thank you so much for your kind and informed reply and for moving my post to the most appropriate forum. I am still learning to navigate the site. Your reply and the stickies on this forum are full of information. It is precisely the image of holistic care that inspired me to ask my original questions.

    What I most want to ascertain is, as a nurse with your experience and expertise, could you use a new graduate nurse's assistance? I've been caring for my father for over 2 years, I mentioned his acuity in the original post. Navigating the resources that are (and are not) available in our community has been especially challenging for our family. I would be honored to provide assistance to families dealing with the challenge of changing family dynamics. God has graced me with an ability to simply be present with people. I have sat with patients as they cried, prayed with patients when they asked, these moments of vulnerability ... I am humbled and honored to be in a position that allows me to provide some solace.

    As a new graduate, the type of crisis intervention and grief counseling a parish nurse provides are well beyond my abilities. With age and experience, that will change. However, I suppose my hope is, that by providing my services at a health screening, or doing home visits with patients who have more predictable needs, the primary parish nurse could manage tasks more demanding of their unique skills.

    Thoughts?
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    It is personal experiences such as yours that are tremendous teachers. You have been on the other side with your father and family.....in need of care. You have experienced the challenges that so many face while trying to navigate the health system and searching for community resources. This experience has also given you a type of compassion, empathy, and heart for dealing with others in similar situations. While this has been a difficult ordeal for you, it has also been an invaluable experience from which you will be able to draw upon as you care for others in crisis.

    Most parish nurses would covet having an assistant such as you. I know with my congregation, there are so many needs....more than I can address. Are there parish nurses in your area? If so, find out who the parish nurse coordinator is in your area and talk with her/him about your idea.

    Good luck and may God's blessings be with you.
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    I agree with TNButterfly. The parish nurse course is invaluable and you will learn so much when you take it.

    Just wanted to add that as a parish nurse (or an assistant to a parish nurse) you would not be doing any direct care. No injections, no dressing changes, no medications. Some of that is due to liability but some of it is just part of the role so that (mostly unpaid) parish nurses don't end up taking the place of paid, home health nurses.

    I agree with TNButterfly that experience is essential before starting up a parish nurse program on your own. I also found that I utilized skills like community assessment that I had learned in my BSN program but not in my AD program. I am not saying it is essential to be a BSN in order to be a parish nurse, but I found it very helpful.

    However, in the meantime, there is no reason you can't volunteer to help with blood pressure checks or a health fair. I would have loved a new graduate with your heart and enthusiasm working with me in my previous church! As TNButterfly said, you may wish to speak with a parish nurse coordinator or a current parish nurse in your area to get your feet wet.

    My previous church had about a 1000 member congregation but currently I am serving two small, rural churches and find that my role is very different than it had been previously. I set up my previous program and was the only parish nurse. I had enough to do with writing for the newsletter, doing blood pressure checks, and parishioner education and outreach that I could have done it full-time. I did not have the opportunity to set up a health fair but I did do a series of educational programs for the seniors in the congregation on topics ranging from fall prevention to decreasing the sugar, salt, and fat in one's diet. I am not quite as busy in my current churches. Now I go with the pastor on visits to parishioners who are hospitalized or in a nursing home and help decipher the aspects of care that may not be familiar to the pastor or to the family. This past Lent the pastor and I did a program on death and dying, based on a curriculum that was distributed through our denomination. He was able to bring a theological perspective while I brought a nursing perspective so we really complemented each other.

    Which reminds me---in the meantime, while you're getting some experience as a nurse---you might want to look at the theology of your particular denomination, just so you are better versed in the faith traditions of the denomination you might like to serve. I know some seminaries offer classes but they tend to be expensive---unfortunately. However, perhaps your pastor can recommend some readings for you to help you learn a bit about theology. The more you know, the more confidence you will have and the better-equipped you will be to take on challenges like grief counseling and crisis intervention.

    I wish you the very best and God's blessings in this journey! You certainly sound like you have the heart for parish nursing!


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