Have you heard about parish nursing? Want a little more insight into this unique vocation?

Parish nursing is a form of nursing with deep roots in the Christian faith. It is focused on healing mind, body, and spirit—whole person wellness rather than concluding care after the diagnosis and treatment of a physical symptom.  

Although parish nursing holds great significance for many congregations throughout the United States, it’s a mission-based occupation that is often not fully understood by everyone. To clear up some of the confusion, here are a few frequently asked questions about the occupation, its application, and its mission.

What is a parish nurse?

A parish nurse is a registered nurse who works for a congregation to provide for a variety of needs, including medical, emotional, and spiritual ones. They are individuals who are passionate about their congregation and have expertise in holistic wellness. Parish nurses can be volunteers, part time employees, and full time employees—depending on the church’s need. Oftentimes parish nurses also work at a local health care facility.   

What does a parish nurse do?

In some rural communities, a parish nurse can be the quickest route to health care for congregation members. However, rather than tending to medical needs firsthand, a parish nurse instead works with the patient to recommend and plan for the best route of care with special emphasis given to the emotional and spiritual care. Oftentimes a parish nurse can be found doing a variety of tasks like driving elderly people to and from appointments, providing a listening ear for a lonely individual, recommending a nutrition plan for a sick person, and more.  

Why do parish nurses exist?

Alongside the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, we see parish nursing as a vocation that is tied directly to the Great Commission; it mirrors the same concern that Christ had for the people He encountered—complete holistic care for mind, body, and spirit. Because parish nurses focus on the wellness of the whole person, they are able to bear witness to the Gospel message and help individuals experience God as they tend to their emotional, social, spiritual, and physical needs.

How do I become a parish nurse?

In order to become a parish nurse, you must first obtain your nursing degree as well as a license to practice in your state. Following the completion of your degree, you can then receive parish nurse training that allows you to officially function as one in your congregation.

But nurses aren’t the only ones who should consider learning more about parish nursing. In fact, any health care professional with a desire to help patients experience true healing in every part of their mind, body, and spirit can benefit from parish nursing training.

Here at Concordia, we provide this training through both traditional education as well as a conference that is offered every summer. The Christian Caregiving Conference is open to any health care provider, parish nurse, and clergy member to come and spend four days on our Mequon campus to learn all the basics of Christian caregiving. This conference is even available for credit by audit for nurses who are seeking continuing education opportunities for their RN license renewals.

What if I don’t have a medical background? Can I still get involved?

Absolutely! Parish nurses often function best when supported by a group from the congregation. Locate your parish nurse and ask what needs he/she might have. It could be something as simple as providing transportation for a member or helping to coordinate a prayer ministry. Either way, your parish nurse will be grateful for the help.

If your congregation doesn’t yet have a parish nurse, consult with your ministry leaders on the possibility of adding one. By starting this conversation, you could help to provide much needed assistance to the most vulnerable in your community.

If you’re interested in parish nursing or our annual Christian Caregiving Conference, please contact Carol Lueders Bolwerk at carol.lueders.bolwerk@cuw.edu for more information on next steps and getting started on your registration.   

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