Great Article on Parish Nursing

  1. I found this article on the Nursing News Page. I missed it and htought I would post it here (as those interested may have missed it also).

    I love the concept of Parish Nursing and hope to "do this" someday. I love hearing about those are are in the field.

    Here is the article:

    Parish nurses aid the whole person

    Michelle Krouse
    Herald Writer

    How can one preacher minister to six hospitalized church members, four grieving widows, one marriage crisis, three couples dealing with aging parents and 30 shut-ins?

    With the assistance of a parish nurse, that's how.

    Several area churches utilize the services of trained parish nurses, including New Virginia United Methodist Church in Hermitage and Covenant and First Presbyterian churches, both in Sharon.

    According to Carla VanDale, the parish nurse of First Presbyterian, parish nursing has been around for centuries. Deaconesses of the early church provided important health care support, meeting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of congregants.

    However, it was not until the 1960s that physician-turned-pastor Granger Westberg found a link between the vocation of nursing and a role in ministering to the whole person: body, mind and spirit, noted Sue Williamson, parish nurse of Covenant Presbyterian.

    Westberg founded Parish Nursing Institute, Chicago, and began a training process for educating parish nurses.

    "A parish nurse has to be a registered nurse," said Mrs. VanDale, who also holds a masters degree in counseling. "Very few nurses know of this ministry."

    Recently Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh and Waynesburg (Pa.) College of Nursing began offering the Parish Nurse Basic Preparation Course based on the standardized curricula endorsed through the International Parish Nurse Resource Center.

    Mrs. VanDale, a member of New Wilmington Presbyterian Church, has been a parish nurse at First Presbyterian for four years. "When I became aware of parish nursing, this church was looking for one. I felt immediately that parish nursing was an ideal mixture of my nursing and counseling."

    Rose Young, a parish nurse and member of New Virginia church, believes that parish nursing is a calling that combines nursing and spiritual skills to assist in the church's ministry of reaching out and helping the whole person.

    Today's parish nurses follow a Bible reference from Luke 9:2, that they are " preach the kingdom of God and heal the sick."

    The five basic tenants of parish nursing are: providing health education and promotion, doing personal health counseling, and being a community resource liaison, a promoter of wholistic health and an organizer, trainer and coordinator of volunteers.

    However, it is a decision for each church and individual parish nurse to decide the focus of the ministry. With the assistance of the pastor and/or church leaders, the priorities of the parish nurse are established by determining the needs of the church.

    A paid parish nurse, Mrs. VanDale's primary work is pastoral care, focusing on hospital visitation, crisis intervention and education while working closely with the pastor.

    A volunteer parish nurse and member of Covenant, Mrs. Williamson has focused on education and community advocacy since beginning in 1990.

    "Patients sometimes receive conflicting information from many different doctors and agencies and I help sift through that information," she said.

    Mrs. Young, who has been an official, unpaid parish nurse at New Virginia for four years, has been "doing some of these things on and off for years," she said.

    Although their duties differ by church need, all three nurses aid their church members by doing blood pressure readings, teaching nutrition and answering health questions. Through these basic duties, the parish nurse gets to know the people.

    If, for example, signs of depression are seen, the nurse can assess the whole person by asking questions about nutrition, exercise and family problems. At that point, a referral could be given to see a doctor or a psychologist, or to have the patient's medication reevaluated. The parish nurse also may contact a family member about the matter.

    Parish nurses say the church should treat the whole person: body, mind and spirit.

    "In a secular world, you can be restricted in combining body, mind and spirit unless invited," Mrs. VanDale said. "Yet we are free to combine the three in the church setting."

    "We are able to talk about how an impending surgery will affect all aspects of a person's life, including their spirit and mind," Mrs. Williamson noted.

    Parish nursing differs from a minister's duties and a church's congregational care or the ministry of deacons or corresponding committees. "They focus on spirituality, but few people, unless they have a medical background, can address the physical piece," Mrs. VanDale said.

    "The pastor goes first to visit, then the parish nurse and finally the committee gets involved, setting up meals and transportation," explained Mrs. Young. "Some duties cross paths but we work together."

    All three women said they feel parish nursing should be expanded in duties and in the acceptance of the positive and healing role parish nurses play within a congregation and community. Mrs. Young said that she would like to see a parish nurse in every church.

    A parish nurse care receiver, Nancy Helmuth, Masury, said she has a close relationship with her parish nurse, Mrs. Williamson.

    "She is the same person I see all the time and knows my fears and concerns while addressing my physical and spiritual questions," said Mrs. Helmuth. "Ministers are great but they are too busy and have many other people to see. Parish nursing is a great thing. I don't know why more people don't take advantage of them."

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  3. by   mompn
    This was a great article, thanks for sharing. I would be interested in any other information or articles you might find.
  4. by   nursecheryl
    That was very interesting. I thought parish nurse was like a nurses aide. I know someone who calls themself a parish nurse and dosen't have greater than a highschool education. When I asked her what she did she told me she gives baths and takes blood pressures, etc...That is sort of like when a nurses aide calls themself a nurse instead of nurses aide.
  5. by   nightingale

    I know what you mean about those who are called nurses. As long as they do do call themselves RN's I am okay with it.

    If you look further on this board, you will find other articles on Parish Nursing that may be of interest.

    Let us know if you have any questions.

    Last edit by nightingale on Sep 8, '02
  6. by   mompn
    Most parish nurses that I know do not do any hands-on nursing. A lot of their time is done with teaching, referring and least that is what most of the parish nurses do that I know. I am sure there are some out there tho that do some degree of "hands-on" nursing. Most PN's that I know or have spoken to are RN's, I believe that is a requirement to be considered "an official" parish nurse.