1. Judge, Deborah DNP, RN
  2. Hall, Melissa DNP, ANP, FNP, GNP-BC

Article Content

A parish nurse or faith community nurse (FCN) is a registered nurse who has had a minimum of 2 years' experience and works in a faith-based community to address the health issues of its members. According to the Indiana Center for Parish nursing (2013), the FCN serves as: "health advisor; educator on health issues; advocate/resource person; liaison to faith and community resources; teacher of volunteers and developers of support groups; healer of body, mind, spirit, and community."


Granger E. Westberg was a Lutheran minister and theologian whose work was based on his belief that healthcare is more than physical care and it is necessary to view the whole person as a member of a community He founded the parish nurse movement in 1984 (International Parish Nurse Resource Center [IPNRC], n.d.). In 1986, the Advocate Health Care in Chicago established the National Parish Nurse Resource Center. As parish nursing grew and expanded to other parts of the world, the title was changed to the International Parish Nurse Resource Center. In 2002, the IPNRC moved to the Deaconess Foundation in St. Louis and continues to promote education, research, and support of parish nursing (IPNRC).


Spirituality is a key motivational strength that creates a strong influence on people's thoughts, emotions, and behavior (Krok, 2008). Research has suggested positive outcomes when spirituality is addressed in nursing care (Burkhart & Hogan, 2008). Spiritual care is recognized as including "kindness and respect; talking and listening; prayer, authenticity, and physical presence; quality nursing care; and mobilizing religious or spiritual resources" (Molzahn & Sheilds, 2008, p. 28).


Spiritual support is a critical issue for many people suffering from chronic disease and/or end-of-life issues (Burkhart & Hogan, 2008). Studies have revealed that spiritual concerns were voiced by over 40% of patients who were dying (Philips & Lazenby, 2013). Patients report less physical symptom distress and greater spiritual well-being when their spiritual needs are met as a part of their care experience (Burkhart et al., 2011). FCNs also have been shown to lower healthcare costs. A study by Dyess et al. (2010) estimated a cost savings of $20,000 per patient when FCNs support caregivers and contribute to a delay in placement of patients into long-term-care facilities.


Church environments have the potential to reach neglected, lonely, and underserved populations. Led by a FCN, they provide social support and spiritual care, and create opportunities for initiatives in health promotion using a holistic approach. Based on evidence of improved health indicators when spirituality is addressed, home care clinicians should research and develop a directory of faith communities that offer this resource, and consider referring patients who would benefit from this ongoing, holistic healthcare support.




Burkhart L., Hogan N. (2008). An experiential theory of spiritual care in nursing practice. Qualitative Health Research, 18(7), 928-938. doi:10.1177/1049732308318027 [Context Link]


Burkhart L., Schmidt L., Hogan N. (2011). Development and psychometric testing of the Spiritual Care Inventory instrument. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 67(11), 2463-2472. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2011.05654.x [Context Link]


Dyess S., Chase S. K., Newlin K. (2010). State of research for faith community nursing 2009. Journal of Religion and Health, 49(2), 188-199. [Context Link]


Indiana Center for Parish Nursing. (2013). Becoming a parish nurse or health minister. Retrieved from[Context Link]


International Parish Nurse Resource Center. (n.d.). History. Retrieved from


Krok D. (2008). The role of spirituality in coping: Examining the relationships between spiritual dimensions and coping styles. Mental Health, Religion and Culture, 11(7), 643-653. [Context Link]


Molzahn A. E., Sheilds L. (2008). Why is it so hard to talk about spirituality? The Canadian Nurse, 104(1), 25-29. [Context Link]


Philips P. L., Lazenby M. (2013). The emotional and spiritual well-being of hospice patients in Botswana and sources of distress for their caregivers. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 16(11), 1438-1445. [Context Link]