New Parish Nurse--A Few Questions

Nurses General Nursing


  • Long Term Care Columnist / Guide
    Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych.

This is probably going to surprise those on this BB who know me well---especially for my politics---but I've just taken the preparation course for parish nurses and am so excited about the possibilities here! I've always viewed my nursing career as a ministry, even though I'm not conventionally religious, and as corny as it sounds, I really think God works through us to touch the lives of others........but as much as I want to practice holistic/spiritual nursing, I have some concerns, and I was thinking maybe a few of you who are parish nurses might be able to help me figure them out.

The main issue is, I am not an active member of any church, nor do I want to be. I'm a 'lapsed' Catholic who has some serious disagreements with organized religion in general and my own church in particular, and try as I might, I cannot make myself believe that God can be confined to any one church, or even the Judeo-Christian tradition. In addition, I think ALL faiths have something of value to offer, including Islam, Buddhism, and the Native American belief systems.....anything that teaches us how to be better human beings and to believe in something greater than ourselves can't be all wrong.

So, how do I practice parish nursing outside the traditional role? My colleagues are practicing in various churches throughout the region; I'm the lone 'unchurched' member. What I want to do is add the spiritual dimension to my practice as a hospital nurse; to provide not only physical and emotional support to patients but also to offer spiritual care if they desire it. Since I'm so generalized in my beliefs, I think I could do this without bringing religious bias to the bedside; but what I want to know now is, are there any of you out there who have stepped into this uncharted territory and are practicing parish nursing in hospitals or other health care facilities? How did you get started, and how are you received by patients and families? What problems have you encountered? Is your administration supportive? (Ours is, fact, they not only paid my tuition, they also paid me my regular wages to take the class.) And most importantly: how has this changed the way your live your life?

Inquiring minds want to know.......thank you! :)


26 Posts

I am not a nurse yet but I do have an MA in Religion so I can offer what I know about working with a range of faiths--there ARE ways to do it, although it may take some effort to figure them out. I think it is great that you want to do this by the way. I would start by getting in touch with the Chaplain's office at local hospitals. Many of them provide interfaith services. Ask them if they have any roles for licenced nurses or if they could recommend a way for you to find a role involving a spiritual aspect. Divinity schools/schools of religion that have chaplaincy programs may also be able to help you find your niche. There are many divinity schools that are open to interfaith practice: Harvard, Duke, Graduate Theological Union, Claremont School of Theology...I am not saying you have to go back school, only that they probably have a career counsiling office that would be willing to help you. Also, you could try contacting the Unitarian Universalist Association about whether or not they have roles for parish nurses. Hope that helps.

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