Parish nursing, sometimes known as faith community nursing, is operational in over 30 countries around the world. In each place the training and support are adapted for that country’s context but the basic principles and the core training remain the same. Here, the Revd Dr Helen Wordsworth, a nurse educator, ordained minister and founder/director of Parish Nursing Ministries UK describes how parish nursing works.
Most people in the church know someone in the local community who is suffering from dementia, someone who is caring for a family member, someone who has been recently diagnosed with cancer or diabetes, or a young single mum who needs some support, physically, mentally and spiritually. But does the church really know how best to help?
One way of addressing this is to appoint a part-time registered nurse to the church’s leadership team. They know about maternal and child health, disease processes, and the kind of help that is available through the local health services. They can offer evidence-based advice, liaise with other health professionals, and link church volunteers with people in crisis.
They can do all this and, if desired, may offer Christian prayer with people, even those who never come near a church.
In the UK, you will find a registered nurse in most church congregations. With just one day a week, working for the church paid or unpaid, they can form a church-based health ministry team that reaches out into the community, making the link between church and health providers, visiting, signposting, listening, and more.
It’s a great way of reaching the community because everyone has health needs in their family at one point or another.
Take Julie, for example, who is a parish nurse based in the county of Kent, UK. She says:
“I make, and take referrals to and from many other health-related agencies. I have a trusted relationship with all of them due to my previous nursing work in the town and am approached at church and in the street for advice on various health issues.
“I develop support groups and train and coordinate volunteers. Our mental health drop-in group has been held up as an example throughout the region. I run a Teddy Bears Clinic for local pre-schoolers to familiarise them with the Minor Injuries Unit and teach them accident prevention, and I promote healthy life styles at the youth club.
“I can also offer prayer and spiritual support. Most of our clients are unchurched but will often end up asking about faith. Involved alongside me are Christian volunteer drivers who can listen and pray on the client’s journey to and from appointments. All my work is prayer-led. Parish Nursing Ministries UK not only offers me the initial training, but also quality assurance, professional resources, networking opportunities, a regional coordinator, and study days to keep me up to date.”
All Parish Nursing initiatives are connected through the Westberg Institute for Faith Community Nursing, via an international coordinator.