1. Ezeokonkwo, Francesca C. SFCC, MSN, RN

Article Content

I am a parish nurse, also known as a Faith Community nurse. My role provides me ample opportunities to journey with patients and their families at different stages of their lives. My daily routine includes visiting patients in their homes, nursing homes, and local hospitals. My home visits include seeing patients in hospice care as well as providing simple friendly visits to older adults who are homebound. My workday begins at 8:30 a.m. and the number of home visits varies day to day. My work list is generated by referrals from the pastor, parishioners, family members, neighbors, and from the parishioners themselves who call the parish office to request a visit.


On a typical day, I visit parishioners at the local hospitals, nursing homes, and in their homes. However, as fate would have it, there were no hospital visits this day and I had visited all the nursing home/assisted living facilities the day before. Today, Mr. Smith (pseudonym) is first on my home visits list, and I spent most of the day with him. He was referred to me by the pastor of our parish who noted that Mr. Smith had not been coming to church for a couple of months. Mr. Smith was truly alone and was grateful that I came to visit. He is about 54 years old, although he looked younger than his age. Most of his family members live in another state, and although they talked frequently on the phone, they rarely visit him. His brother lives nearby but their relationship is strained. Occasionally, he talks with some of his neighbors, but he had very little physical contact with people. When I entered his house this day, I could not determine from his facial expression how he was feeling.


During this first encounter with Mr. Smith, I spent a good amount of time gaining his trust in order to develop a mutual relationship. Once he became comfortable, he opened up and told me that he had not gone out of the house in the 2 months following the death of his mother. The reason-he had no money to buy gasoline for his car. He had not driven a vehicle in a long time, as his mother had been doing all the driving. He was afraid that he might be involved in a car accident if he went out by himself.


Mr. Smith revealed to me that he had nothing to eat but two raw eggs and a few canned food items. With further investigation, I also learned that Mr. Smith had not been taking his medications. He did not have health insurance and could not afford the out-of-pocket medical costs. To make things worse, Mr. Smith's refrigerator had recently stopped working. He had withdrawn into himself and had not been participating in his former community activities since his mother's death. I thanked Mr. Smith for his openness and for allowing me to share in his story, and asked that we develop a plan to define and achieve his future goals.


One of the functions of the parish nurse is that of a collaborator who connects people to the resources in their communities. Thankfully, I had my phone and contact information for most of the resources in our community. I made a quick phone call to the social worker at one of the local hospitals and explained Mr. Smith's situation. The social worker made an appointment with him for that very afternoon to complete the required forms. Given that I had no other appointments scheduled for the day, I accompanied Mr. Smith to the social worker's office. After the evaluation of the completed forms, Mr. Smith was elated to hear that he qualified for health insurance and an appointment was made for him to visit his primary physician the following week. With this good news, his face brightened and his demeanor became more relaxed. All I could hear him say was "Oh, Thank you Sister! Thank you, Sister!"


When we got back to Mr. Smith's home later that afternoon, I contacted the local food pantry and arranged for some food items. The pastor of our parish was notified about the condition of Mr. Smith's refrigerator, and he instructed the parish maintenance man to replace it with one from our parish center. Upon hearing this news, Mr. Smith could no longer contain himself. He kissed my hands and expressed his heartfelt gratitude for all the many services that he had received within such a short period of time. While all of this was going on, I thought about how little I had actually contributed to changing Mr. Smith's situation. Then it dawned on me what a difference we make in the lives of the people we serve each day without even realizing it.


Like Mr. Smith, our patients may be entangled in a web of issues that seem insurmountable. All it takes to untangle them is a listening ear. The power of active listening cannot be over emphasized. As home healthcare providers, we can help facilitate this process by listening attentively and empathetically. Through attentive listening, I became aware of the significant issues in Mr. Smith's life and that paved the way to addressing them. Listening actively to Mr. Smith's story gave me a deeper sense of the meaning he had made in his life. Mr. Smith's agony from the sad news of his mother's death made him lose interest in continuing with his life. Through my role as a parish nurse, I was able to present to him a message of hope that transformed his life.


When people are subjected to pains or sadness, they react to these experiences uniquely and in a variety of ways. Some may want to talk or express their feelings by telling stories, whereas others may not want to talk at all. As a parish/faith community nurse, my work is an opportunity to walk with my patients when they experience painful life events. Doing my job well provides an opportunity for my patients to feel loved and cared for. My encounter with Mr. Smith helped him to experience hope that his circumstances could improve, and as a result, he changed his mind and decided to move on and embrace his life.


Obviously, building a good rapport is an important element of open communication. Mr. Smith expressed himself freely and our encounter reinforced to me the importance of presence. Just being present with Mr. Smith, listening to him, and letting him talk through his problems was a beautiful experience. As a parish nurse, I am privileged having the opportunity to "be with" rather than to "do for" Mr. Smith. His euphoria and gratitude filled my heart with joy. The beautiful experience of today embodied what it means to be a parish nurse-working with clients holistically-body, mind, and spirit. This very beautiful experience has permeated not only my ministry, but my life.


New Approaches to COVID-19

NIH: As the global pandemic unfolded, researchers worked at unprecedented speed to develop new treatments and vaccines. Scientists studied antibodies from the blood of people who recovered from COVID-19 and identified potent, diverse ones that neutralize SARS-CoV-2. Some antibody treatments have now been given emergency use authorization by the FDA, with many others in development. However, such antibodies-called monoclonal antibodies-are difficult to produce and must be given intravenously. NIH-researchers have been pursuing other approaches, including using antibodies from llamas, which are only about a quarter of the size of a typical human antibody and could be delivered directly to the lungs using an inhaler.