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What does a parish nurse do? What does focusing on the "intentional care of the spirit as part of the process of promoting wholistic health and preventing or minimizing illness in a faith community" mean? (ANA & HMA, 2005, p. 1).


Specialty practice in a church is a drastic change from hospital, home health, or hospice nursing. Unless you are a part of a hospital-based ministry (more about that in the next column), you are an independent practitioner without the support of a supervisor. Your patients are the members of the congregation, so each day brings new challenges and opportunities. Much of your job involves listening and prayer. It is a ministry of presence, of holding hands and walking with instead of procedures, medications, and constant charting. Parish nurses are with those in need over time, not just during illness or crisis. This long-term relationship provides insight into individual habits, family dynamics, and living environment, all of which influence health and well-being of body, mind, and spirit.


A parish nurse has many roles. As a health advisor, you may be assisting individuals in understanding how their various healthcare providers work together. As health educator, you may be providing a wide variety of educational programs such as those involving healthful eating, new parenting classes, or stress reduction, or you may be helping parishioners understand their medications. Health advocacy might include a health tip announcement on Sunday, a health article in the church newsletter, or a health fair every spring.


Parish nurses excel as resource and referral agents!! Knowing what is available, who qualifies for services, and how to access what is needed is an important part of health ministry. By developing relationships with individuals, groups, and community organizations, parish nurses collect information to streamline referrals. They do not replace services. Instead, they assist individuals in selecting the appropriate provider. Their strong relationship with physician offices and hospital discharge planners ensures that patients get the care they need.


American Nurses Association & Health Ministries Association. (2005). Faith community nursing: Scope and standards of practice. Silver Springs, MD: Nurses