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Parish Nursing Program

What is Parish Nursing?

Parish Nursing, also known as Congregational Nursing or Faith Community Nursing, is a specialty practice of professional nursing and a professional model of health ministry that focuses on whole person health.

The Parish Nurse role encompasses seven functions:

  • Integrator of faith and health
  • Health educator
  • Personal health counselor
  • Referral agent
  • Coordinator of volunteers
  • Developer of support groups
  • Health advocate

The Philosophy of Parish Nursing from the International Parish Nurse Resource Center serves as an excellent way to answer the question, "What is Parish Nursing?"

Parish Nursing is a specialty practice and professional model of health ministry distinguished by the following beliefs:

The Parish Nurse role reclaims the historic roots of health and healing found in many religious traditions. Parish Nurses live out the early work of monks, nuns, deacons and deaconesses, church nurses, traditional healers and the nursing profession itself.

The spiritual dimension is central to parish nursing practice. Personal spiritual formation is essential for the Parish Nurse. The practice holds that all persons are sacred and must be treated with respect and dignity. Compelled by these beliefs the Parish Nurse serves, advocating with compassion, mercy and justice. The Parish Nurse assists and supports individuals, families and communities in becoming more active partners in the stewardship of personal and communal health resources.

The Parish Nurse understands health to be a dynamic process, which embodies the spiritual, psychological, physical and social dimensions of the person. Spiritual health is central to well being and influences a person's entire being. A sense of well being can exist in the presence of disease and healing can exist in absence of cure.

The focus of practice is the faith community and its ministry. The Parish Nurse, in collaboration with the pastoral staff and congregants, participates in the ongoing transformation of the faith community into a source of health and healing. Through partnership with other community health resources, Parish Nursing fosters new and creative responses to health and wellness concerns.

There are a variety of organizational frameworks for how Parish Nurses work with congregations. Many Parish Nurses serve in churches as volunteers, while others are paid staff members (part-time or full-time) of the church. Institutions, such as hospitals, health care systems, and/or universities, also collaborate with churches to have Parish Nurses (paid or unpaid) serve in congregations. Regardless of the organizational framework, the Parish Nurse is accountable to the Nurse Practice Act of the state he/she is practicing, as well as the Scope and Standards of Parish Nursing (American Nurses Association & Health Ministries Association, Inc.). Parish Nurses do not provide invasive treatments (i.e. blood draws, medication administration) for their clients.

In a time where people are getting older, dollars for adequate health care are dwindling, the majority of diseases are lifestyle related, and there is an increased awareness of the positive relationship between faith and health, the Parish Nurse-in collaboration with congregations and the health care delivery system-serves as a minister of health by promoting health, healing, and wholeness, and by caring for the whole person-body, mind, and spirit.

The late Granger Westberg, former pastor, medical chaplain, and "pioneer" of Parish Nursing in the 1980s, provides us with an inspirational thought in relation to the Parish Nurse: "Nurses seem to have one foot in the sciences and one in the humanities, one foot in the spiritual world and one in the physical one. The nurses I've had the privilege to work with have been very perceptive; they have great insight into the human condition."

For more information on Parish Nursing, please call, write, or email:

BHS Congregational Health
P.O. Box 830605
Birmingham, Alabama 35283-0605
Office: 205-783-3493 or 205-592-1390
Fax: 205-783-3564
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