1. Hinton, Sharon T.

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The faith community nurse roles of health educator and health advisor (two of seven roles for parish nurses) assist congregations to improve health individually and as a community. Nurses are especially adept at this role because of their knowledge base. Patients may nod to the physician that they understand and have no questions, but more often than not they turn to a nurse to provide an understandable explanation of healthcare instructions.

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According to Patterson (2008), parish nurses plan and implement health education and provide opportunities to learn about health issues, individually and in groups. "A parish nurse is available to discuss health concerns, emphasizing early response to small problems and encouraging healthy lifestyles" (p. 34). She describes health advisors (counselor is the current term, but is not accepted in many states) as necessary because "parishioners may already have been to physicians but do not fully understand their diagnosis or options for treatment" (p. 35). Faith Community Nursing Scopes and Standards of Practice (ANA & HMA, 2005) includes activities for these roles: teaching to strengthen the body-mind-spirit connection, facilitating educational programs for individuals and groups such as spiritual practices for health and healing, healthy lifestyles, risk-reducing behaviors, self-care, and evaluation of health information resources (pp. 18-20).


Whether you teach or host another educator for a program, the variety of topics is limitless. Customize what you offer to the needs and issues faced by your congregation. Remember, God knows what your congregation needs. Pray and ask him how he wants you to serve and what the best ways are to meet health needs in your faith community (Matthew 7:7-8).


Discussion Forum

There has been a recent influx of questions regarding the need for malpractice insurance for faith community nurses. Do you carry your own malpractice insurance? Does your employer or congregation pay for malpractice insurance? What are your concerns about malpractice and the need for insurance specific to the parish nurse role? Send replies to: [email protected].

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In 1909, Ellen Gould Harmon White, a prolific writer who helped form the Seventh Day Adventist Church, penned these words about teaching health principles:

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"Gospel workers should be able also to give instruction in the principles of healthful living. There is sickness everywhere, and most of it might be prevented by attention to the laws of health. The people need to see the bearing of health principles upon their well-being, both for this life and for the life to come. They need to be awakened to their responsibility for the human habitation fitted up by their Creator as His dwelling place, and over which He desires them to be faithful stewards." (p. 147)


White, E. G. H. (1909). The Ministry of Healing (1st ed.). Nampa, ID: Pacific Press.


Resource Toolbox


* Health education resources: Curriculum, handouts, and speakers (if in your area) may be provided at no or little cost!! Explore these national websites for ideas and materials:


- Centers for Disease Control-


- Children's Health Fund-


- Healthy Roads Media-


- National Library of Medicine-


- National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences-


- LifeWay-


- Faith Trust Institute-


* Announcing the 24th Annual Westberg Parish Nurse Symposium "Thriving in a Changing World." September 17-19, Saint Charles, MO,


* The International Parish Nurse Resource Center lists the 2010 basic preparation for parish nursing courses held across the nation. At click on curriculum descriptions, then available courses.



American Nurses Association (ANA), & Health Ministries Association (HMA). (2005). Faith Community Nursing Scope & Standards of Practice. Silver Springs, MD: Author. [Context Link]


Patterson, D. (2008). Health ministries: A primer for clergy and congregations. Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim. [Context Link]