Balancing Parish Nursing and Paid Work and...LIFE!

I'm posting this out of curiosity but also because I'm looking for a bit of balance in my own life. Specialties Parish Article

Balancing Parish Nursing and Paid Work and...LIFE!

Several years ago, I started a parish nurse program in a 1000 member congregation. It was the first parish nurse program ever in that church and I met with a bit of resistance from the parishioners because it was a foreign concept to them. My activities included biweekly blood pressure checks between services, health counseling, a biweekly health education and support group, occasional home and hospital visits with the pastor, and writing articles for the monthly newsletter. I also advised the pastors about health issues that might have theological implications as well as practical issues like the difference between diverticulitis and metastatic colon cancer.

It was a great experience but I ended the program after about four years because I had gone back to graduate school, had a part-time teaching job and didn't have the time for parish nursing. I was a single parent of two teenagers at the time and was so busy and so stressed that I barely had time to breathe, much less continue my volunteer work. (Another factor, unrelated to the lack of balance in my life, was that the pastor who had been supportive of the program left that church for another position and the pastor who remained was not as supportive of parish nursing.)

Fast forward to the present: I remarried, moved with my husband and kids to a smaller community and two very small churches. My kids are college-age now so we're looking at an empty nest. The pastor of these churches (two point charge) is aware of my background as a parish nurse and is very enthusiastic and anxious for me to get going. I wanted to start something up last year but I was working almost full time night shift and simply didn't have the energy. I have discussed with him the activities he would like me to do but he basically has given me free reign to do what I see fit.

I guess my concerns are about how to balance parish nursing and a job and still have a life! I ended up quitting my Master's program because of long commutes, stress and financial and time constraints. I could not afford to quit my job at the time but I was burned out and just wanted a LIFE. My kids have always been a huge priority for me and, while perhaps professionally unwise, I have stayed out of the workforce, dropped classes, changed schedules because they have needed me. It was far more important for me to be a good parent to my kids, especially after a bloody divorce, than to finish my MSN.

Am driving my poor husband crazy but I sometimes think I'd like to go back to grad school because, while dropping out was the right choice for my family at that time, I do regret not finishing. Then I talk about what I want to do with parish nursing and I'm also looking for jobs. I figure if I get something full-time I won't pursue the Master's and just stick with the job and parish nursing when I have time. If I go part-time, I might have time to take one class at a time and still do parish nursing. Both of my kids will be in college this year so I am facing an empty nest---and I guess I'm looking to fill it. How do others maintain balance? I miss parish nursing and definitely want to get going, especially since my pastor is supportive and enthusiastic.

Am I nuts?

Thanks for any input! Hoping to start a good discussion here!

GRA with a specialty in Gerontology and nursing education

1 Article   1,796 Posts

Share this post

Share on other sites
Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg.

You are not crazy. You need to decide what you want to do with your life. I understand placing your children at a higher level priority than your career. They have been your career. I can so relate as I, too, placed my children before my career. I was a SAHM while my children were young. I have never regretted my decision. Now that my children are grown I have ample time to do what I want to do. It sounds like that is where you are.

Do you have to have a second income? Most parish nurses do not make a huge fact many are volunteers. But nurses do not go into parish nursing because of the money. They choose this path as they find this is a way to combine their faith and their nursing skills. The end result is a very fulfilling career....knowing you are helping people in a very unique way.

How many hours do you plan on working as a parish nurse? This is something you must decide up front and try to adhere to the hours. Since you have already been a parish nurse, you know you could easily work full-time at the job and still not meet all the needs of the congregation. You said the churches are smaller than your last church, so perhaps this is doable. But you will have to decide what you are willing to do.

You need to set up a Health and Wellness committee to help you address the health needs. This group of volunteers can help you accomplish many things. You need to be able to rely on them.

You are very fortunate to have the support of the pastor. You need to talk with him and see what his expectations are and how these compare with what you are willing to do. Don't be afraid to set limits on your time. You need to have balance in your life. I would suggest reading the book Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life

by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. It is an excellent book.

I hope this has been helpful. Please feel free to pm me or ask more questions here.

Specializes in Gerontology, nursing education.

How embarrassing---I just clicked on this thread because I thought it looked interesting---and I'm the one who started it.

I think one of my biggest issues in parish nursing has been trying to get used to changing from the dynamics of a small urban/suburban congregation to a rural population. I find that, while we don't have the resources in our rural churches, we do have much more social support here. For a while, I felt a bit redundant because I couldn't provide social support as I did in my previous church but now I'm very grateful for the strong social fiber in these churches.

I also find that I act more as a consultant to the pastor than I did in my previous church. He is not a medical person and I often go with him on visits to hospitalized parishioners, not only to provide them with support, but also to give the pastor my assessment of the situation. Fortunately, he listens to me---at least in matters of parish nursing. He doesn't always listen to me when I ask him to please wash the dishes or pick up the newspapers---but that's because he's my husband. Sometimes that makes for an interesting dynamic! I enjoy working with him and I'm glad he's supportive of parish nursing but there have been times when his expectations have been a bit different from mine. He sometimes does not realize that he's had an easier adjustment to the changes in our lives than I have had because, since we've been together, I've changed churches, stopped school, started school, changed jobs, moved, and seen both my kids flee the nest. He's just had to cope with becoming a first-time stepfather and dealing with my cats.

I did decide to return to school because it was bothering me that I did not complete my MSN; unfortunately, it's tough to transfer graduate credits so I am pretty much starting over but since we decided that I should not work and just concentrate on school, it's probably not as stressful as it could be.