History of Parish Nursing
The 1980's began a new movement in healthcare. Diagnosis related groups (DRGS) determined what a diagnosis should require in cost reimbursement through Medicare. Wellness outcomes are not predictable and many patients were requiring more care than medical reimbursement wanted to provide. As a result of this change in healthcare management, patients were being discharged earlier and sicker.
In 1983 Lutheran Chaplain Granger Westberg proposed an experimental program to assist with medical crisis. He enlisted six Chicago congregations, four Lutheran and two Catholic to hire a nurse to care for parishioners. (Granger discovered that nurses made the easiest and most natural connection with parishioners.) Chicago Hospital Lutheran General agreed to sponsor the program by paying 3/4ths of the salary the first year, half the second year and 1/4th the third year. By the fourth year, the church was paying the full salary and more churches could be added to the program.
The Parish Nurse provided support for those discharged early from the hospital and assisted in referring congregants to health care facilities when needed. Health promotion became a necessary to component of the health and healing ministry. Hundreds of congregations now have parish nurses – many different denominations. Many churches use the model of incorporating a parish nurse as a staff member as developed by Granger Westberg. Hospitals and care facilities are finding parish nursing as a good source of outreach and prevention of unnecessary visits to the emergency room or admission to a care facility.
The Evangelical Lutheran Parish Nurse Association (ELPNA) is a nonprofit membership organization comprised of registered nurses who are affiliated with an ELCA or other Lutheran congregation or who are Lutheran and providing ministry in a congregation of another religious denomination. It was founded in 2004, with the first membership list including 65 nurses in the Minneapolis and St. Paul Area Synods of Minnesota.
See JOIN US for more information on ELPNA membership.