Because the Lutheran tradition has used the term Parish Nurse more extensively, for now we are continuing to use this term, while recognizing that the term Faith Community Nurse is becoming more widely used. We will use Parish Nurse and Faith Community Nurse interchangeably on this website.
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. It was founded in 2004, with the first membership list including 65 nurses in the Minneapolis and St. Paul Area Synods of Minnesota. The membership is open to Registered Nurses who have completed a Parish Nurse Preparation class and are paid/unpaid/retired staff with an ELCA or other Lutheran congregation.
A Different Kind of Nursing
Here is a link to a story that gives a wonderful example about what a FCN does: The story about parish/faith community nurses -- “A different kind of nursing” -- is now posted on Living Lutheran at: http://www.elca.org/en/Living-Lutheran/Stories/2014/08/140820-A-different-kind-of-nursing
A FCN is a registered nurse with an active license in the state he/she has or has had a practice (or be covered by a licensing compact), who has taken a Faith Community Nurse preparation course to promote and practice health ministry. Whereas most health disciplines are trained in our aspect of medical care, FCNs are trained to nurture the whole person — body, mind and spirit. FCNs work in partnership with pastors, churches, hospitals, social service agencies, and the community. FCNs focus on prevention, wholeness, and wellness. In many communities of faith, the FCN is the health Mministry team leader.
Roles of a Parish/Faith Community Nurse
Parish Nurse is an Integrator of Faith and Health, reminding people to care for the body, mind, and spirit. The parish nurse fills many roles within a faith community. These roles may include:
Health Educator, providing programs in all formats from one-on-one to group seminars, encouraging the understanding of the connection between faith and well-being and the needs of the community at large. Educational programs may include all aspects of physical, mental, and spiritual health.
Coordinator of care, enlisting, training, and assisting volunteers within the faith community to support members with their health and wellness needs.
Resource person, assisting members in identifying and securing appropriate and available resources that address health and spiritual needs across the health care continuum.
Health advocate and counselor, aiding members in the understanding of health concerns and helping mem-bers access appropriate health care within the community. In this role, the parish nurse may assist members with life transforming issues.
Member of the pastoral team, collaborating with the spiritual leaders to provide faith education and worship offerings, comfort and support to members in need, and visitation to members in their homes or in various health care settings.