1. Hinton, Sharon T.

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Working with volunteers and support groups in parish nurse ministry can be a challenge and a blessing, requiring good communication skills and patience. As with all nursing, the Faith Community Nursing Scope & Standards of Practice (ANA & HMA, 2005) remind us we must delegate only to those capable of carrying out the task. The parish nurse ultimately is responsible for volunteers and group leaders. According to the United Church of Christ Insurance Board, which provides insurance for United Churches of Christ, Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ), and Presbyterian Churches USA, volunteers are "individuals performing services for a church entity, as long as their compensation is limited to reimbursement of reasonable expenses and they do not receive anything else of value in excess of $500 per year."

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To protect the church and the nurse, all volunteers should:


* consent to a background check


* be adequately supervised


* receive clear guidelines, orientation, and training


* have policy in place for discipline and dismissal of volunteers.



Whether you are a paid or volunteer (unpaid) parish nurse, because of your professional license you must work within the Scope & Standards of the specialty and maintain your license according to your state requirements. If you are not an RN or you have surrendered your license, you may not use the title parish-faith community nurse.


When providing support groups there are many options. You can lead the group, have a group led by others in the congregation or community, or utilize a recognized group such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Any group that falls under the umbrella of the parish nurse must be monitored for quality and effectiveness.


Vital information for your annual reports and grant applications is an estimated value of donated volunteer time and services. Independent Sector (2010) estimated the average value of volunteer time in the United States for 2009 at $20.85 per hour. Use this figure to determine the value of time given in your organization's work. The value of your time is based on the current wage for RNs in your area. Have you added up the in-kind value being donated to your congregation and community?


Discussion Forum

Are there specific topics or questions about parish nursing you would like to have addressed? Send queries to: Thanks to all who have written and shared how much you appreciate the column.

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Caring in Crisis: Bible Studies for Helping People was published by InterVarsity Press (Downers Grove, IL) in 1979. Author Judith Allen Shelly pondered responsible caring:

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If we believe that people are created by God, in his image, and that a relationship with God is necessary for true health and fullness of life, then meeting spiritual needs must be an integral part of Christian caring. But spiritual care raises many questions in the minds of some people. Where do we get our mandate? What is our focus? How can we care for people spiritually when many of our friends and acquaintances are not Christians? Do they really want such care, or is their spiritual life a private manner? (p. 11)


These questions are just as valid today as they were 30 years ago. Intentional care of the spirit is the purpose of parish nursing. Shelly wrote that, "our greatest and most basic resource is the Lord himself" (p. 92).


Resource Toolbox

Effective use of volunteers and support groups:

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* Hurley, J., & Mohnkern, S. (2004). Mobilize support groups to meet congregational needs. Journal of Christian Nursing, 21(4), 34-39.


* Miller, K. (2010). No more don't ask, don't tell.


* Locker, D. (2010). The volunteer book: A guide for churches and nonprofits. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill.








American Nurses Association (ANA) & Health Ministries Association (HMA). (2005). Faith community nursing scope and standards of practice. Silver Springs, MD: Author. [Context Link]


Independent Sector. (2010). Value of volunteer time. Retrieved June 21, 2010, from[Context Link]


United Churches of Christ Insurance Board. (2005). Managing volunteer risk. Retrieved June 21, 2010, from