About Faith Community Nursing
Congregations have been promoting health and wholeness for centuries through worship, music sharing and caring. The Gospels are replete with examples of Jesus healing. Among the thirty-five examples of healing, the healings were of the body, the mind and the spirit. The Church has continued to carry on the healing mission of Jesus through the sacraments, medical missionaries, Catholic hospital systems, and a whole host of persons devoted to serving peoples’ health and healing needs. Faith Community nursing plays a vital role in the broader dimension of congregational ministries by brining a registered nurse to the ministry team. This provides a unique blend of nursing and ministry.
The faith community nurse can contribute to the health and healing mission of Jesus as well as the mission of the Diocese of Saint Cloud: i.e. “Our mission is to be his heart of mercy, voice of hope and hands of justice.”
History of Faith Community Nursing in St. Cloud
Sister Michaea Byron, former President of the College of Saint Teresa, was instrumental in bringing Parish Nursing to this area. In 1993 she was asked by Bishop Jerome Hanus of the Diocese of Saint Cloud to be a consultant for the St. Cloud Hospital and the St. Cloud Clinic of Internal Medicine to combine the systems which took place in 1995 with the creation of the CentraCare Health System.
The U. S Bishops were recommending that dioceses have a coordinator of Health Ministry, and so Bishop John Kinney asked Sister Michaea to continue to serve the Diocese of Saint Cloud as Coordinator of Health Ministry. One of her roles was to develop a Parish Nurse Ministry.
She worked with the College of Saint Benedict to hold a Parish Nurse class. The first local class for training in Parish Nursing was taught at the College of Saint Benedict in the spring of 1997.
Things were coming together and in 1996 a dozen parish nurses of many denominations began formally meeting at the St. Cloud Hospital monthly to discuss how they could help minister to the health of their congregations. Some had been meeting at a restaurant for support. 20-30 nurses attended the monthly meetings at the SC Hospital, getting spiritual nourishment, learning new things to help in their roles and offering support and suggestions to each other. This group is still known as the Central MN Parish Nurse Ministry Committee and elects officers to serve for two year terms to lead the group. They meet the second Wednesday of the month from 9-10:30 am at the Saint Cloud Hospital Conference Center. Sister Michaea and Linda Chimelewski, Chief Nursing Officer, Saint Cloud Hospital, were instrumental in creating a collaboration and support for Parish Nursing with a contract that has been renewed annually with provisions that support Parish Nursing.
Sister Michaea Byron and Linda Chmielewski at the same time started a committee with the goal of supporting the work of parish nursing. The Parish Nurse Partnership of Central Minnesota, which included the St. Cloud Hospital, the Diocese of St. Cloud, College of St. Benedict, community agencies, churches of various denominations and parish nurses, was formed at about the same time to support parish nurses in their work. One of the benefits set at the time which continues, is an annual workshop for parish nurses put on by the SCH Education Department. The support has been vital to parish nurses enabling them to continue to network. This committee continues to meet as Health Ministries of Central MN with the focus of supporting Faith Community Nursing and Health Ministries in churches, with a part time position of Parish Health Ministries Program Coordinator, employed through the Diocese of Saint Cloud, with support of the St. Cloud Hospital, from Sister Michaea’s hiring until April 2015, when the position came under the leadership of the Department of Spiritual Care and Mission of the Saint Cloud Hospital.
Philosophy of Faith Community Nursing
Faith Community Nursing is an emerging area of specialized professional nurse practice distinguished by the following characteristics:
- Faith Community Nursing practice hold the spiritual dimension to be central to the practice. It also encompasses the physical, psychological and social dimensions of nursing practice.
- The focus of practice is the faith community and its ministry. The Faith Community Nurse, in collaboration with the pastoral staff and congregational members, participates in the ongoing transformation of the faith community into a source of health and healing.
- Faith Community Nurses’ Practice is designed to build on and strengthen capacities of individuals, families, and congregations to understand and care for one another as part of their relationship with God, faith traditions, themselves, and the broader society. The practice holds that all persons are sacred and must be treated with respect and dignity.
Adapted from Solari-Twadell A, McDermott, M.A., Ryan, J.A. Djupe, A.M. (1941) [RMI]. Assuring Visibility for the Future: Guidelines Development for Parish Nurse Education Programs. Lutheran General Health System, Park Ridge, Illinois.
The Church Health Center, located in Memphis, TN, recommends the following registered nurse qualifications for a parish nurse:
- Graduate of an accredited registered nursing program, preferably with a BSN
- 3-5 years of clinical nursing practice
- Current registered nurse license in Minnesota or the state he/she practices
- Ability to work independently and within the context of a team
- Community assessment skills
- Possesses a good understanding of spirituality and religion
- Completion of a Basic Parish Nurse Preparation Course
Faith Community Nursing Roles
Faith community nurses function under specific professional standards and a scope of practice developed by the American Nurses Association and the Health Ministries Association. Faith community nurses believe that the spiritual dimension is central to their practice and involves and incorporates it in their following functions. Not all faith community nurses will carry out each of these functions. The faith community nurses, in collaboration with the pastor, parish members and the health and wellness committee, will determine which functions best meet the needs of the parish.
Integrator of Faith and Health
Promotes an understanding of the relationship of body, mind and spirit and the role of values, attitudes, lifestyle and faith. Examples include:
- Prayer, presence and active listening
- Spiritual Assessments
- Referral to other members of the ministerial team
- Reframing, encouragement, reassurance
- Visitation to homes, hospitals and nursing homes
Focuses on a variety of health promotion activities for all ages with the parish. Examples include:
- Sponsors health fairs
- Makes health information available in the bulletin and displays
- Works with other ministries in the parish such as the school, youth groups, women and men’s group to promote health
- Develops group education programs related to health
Personal Health Counselor
Discusses health issues and concerns with individuals and families. As a health counselor, a parish nurse can help parishioners explore ways to cope more effectively with:
- Physical problems, emotional struggles and safety concerns
- Stressful life transitions
- Referral to appropriate healthcare providers or the healthcare system
- Assists parishioners in understanding diagnoses, lab results and medications
- Serves as a liaison between parishioners and resources within the parish, community and healthcare system
- Promotes community supported food shelf services for everyone, such as local food shelves and Fare For All
- Assists the uninsured and underinsured to available health options
- Refers parish members to available social support options
Promotes local, state and national endeavors related to health issues such as smoking, pandemic flu preparation, cancer awareness.
- Participates in parish activities to address social justice issues
- Accompanies parish members to health and social support systems as an advocate.
- Reports abuse and neglect issues to the appropriate social service agency
- Assists with values clarification around important decisions such as end-of-life issues.
Developer of Support Groups
Assesses the needs of various groups within the parish who would benefit from support options. Examples include:
- Arranges for qualified individuals to facilitate support groups
- Provides evidence based support groups such as Chronic Disease Management and A Matter of Balance.
- Facilitates disease specific support groups and grief/loss groups
Facilitator of Volunteers
- Recruits, trains and supervises volunteers for various activities within the parish. Examples include:
- Blood Mobile coordination
- First Aid Training for Ushers
- Education for Parish Home Visitor Volunteers
- Clinics and screenings within the parish