Faith Community Nurse 101

by jeastridge jeastridge, BSN, RN (Trusted Brand)

Specializes in Faith Community Nurse (FCN).

The author summarizes what a Faith Community Nurse (FCN) is and does, giving examples from her own practice of 20 years.

What is it like to be a Faith Community Nurse?

Faith Community Nurse 101

This article is written in response to a query which was posted in the thread Examining the role of a Parish Nurse. As a long time Faith Community Nurse, I hope to be able to answer this nurse's questions fully in this article and possibly inform others that may wonder about what a congregational nurse is and what the role entails.

"Hello everyone! I am in progress of obtaining my BSN and right now I am taking a class called Community Health Nursing. One of our assignments is to conduct a short interview with a parish nurse. If there is anyone willing to help me with my assignment, I would very much appreciate it!"

Describe the nurse's role in the community and give examples of what he/she does on a daily basis. Real-life examples should be included whenever appropriate.

First of all, what's with the name? The official designation by the American Nurses Association is Faith Community Nursing (FCN); other titles used include parish nurse and community health nurse. All are correct and can simply be a matter of preference for the nurse and his/her faith community.

The ANA defines the FCN role as, "...the specialized practice of professional nursing that focuses on the intentional care of the spirit as part of the process of promoting holistic health and preventing or minimizing illness in a faith community." (American Nurses Association, 2012, Faith Community Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice, Silver Springs, MD: Author, p1). The nurse working in a faith community serves as an advocate, a resource person, a bridge between those who have needs and those who wish to serve them.

Some examples from the particular congregation that I serve include: home visitation, card ministry, casserole delivery, prayer shawls, free mobile unit health care once a month, grief recovery, support group for caregivers, blood drives, dental clinic, haircutting salon and many others.

In day-to-day practice, the outreach of a congregational nurse spans everything from welcoming new babies to making hospice-type visits in the home. The FCN provides information, support, encouragement and links the members with any services they might need.

FCNs work in a variety of partnerships. Some are totally volunteer; others receive a stipend and still others are paid a regular nursing salary. Some are part time and others full time. Hospital systems can be sponsors for FCN programs or they can originate in the church.

Identify how and who the nurse(s) would work with for coordination of services to provide a comprehensive health program in the community.

At my church, I work with a large group of volunteers. They actually implement the outreach efforts-I encourage and coordinate. I also work as a liaison with the medical community, helping people understand their diagnoses, assisting them in finding ways to get to tests and doctors' appointments. Sometimes when parishioners are in the hospital, I work with the case managers and families to make sure that everyone understands what the plan is, thus avoiding unnecessary repeat hospitalizations.

How would the nurse utilize a population-based approach in his or her role?

A FCN must continually assess the needs of the particular congregation that she/he serves, deciding where to expend energy and time. In my particular situation, I meet with a Congregational Care Team and they help me plan what we will be focusing on each six months.

Does this role include assessment and screening of individuals, families, or groups? If yes, please include examples.

We do routine blood pressure screenings as well as occasional special event screenings, measuring parameters such as BMI, height, weight, waist circumference, body fat composition. When visiting our "at home" members, or our members long term care facilities, I do brief assessments-always noting changes and progression.

What health education responsibilities does the nurse have in the community?

The FCN often serves as an information source as well as a referral person, helping people to connect with the medical community as needed. She can answer questions about services surrounding rehab, home health, hospice, nursing home care, assisted living and a variety of other living arrangements for people with physical needs.

At times, the nurse coordinates with others to help promote programs that might be of interest, for example: grief support, advance directive preparation sessions, caregiver helps, etc.

Does this nurse work with a vulnerable population? If so describe.

Many congregations have a sizable population of elderly. At our church, I work hard to keep an updated list of our at risk elderly. I try to connect those that have needs with people that want to be of service. In this way, I can serve as a bridge.

Describe an ethical dilemma that this nurse has faced and describe how you would have handled that situation.

The most common ethical dilemma many FCNs face has to do with confidentiality. When working on a church staff there is a need to share information that is helpful but not private. It is important to constantly draw that line at the point of confidentiality.

How important would record keeping and documentation, including computerization, be for a nurse in this role?

Different nurses have different strategies for keeping records. Because we are professional nurses, we do keep careful records of encounters and interventions. SOAP notes are helpful and brief. Sometimes simple narrative notes on the computer can be valuable for when another encounter is needed.

What about you?

Have you had any contact with a FCN?

Are you familiar with a congregation that has one?

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Joy has been a nurse for 35 years, practicing in a variety of settings. Currently, she is a Faith Community Nurse. She enjoys her grandchildren, cooking for crowds and taking long walks.

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