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Parish Nurse

A parish nurse serves an important role in his or her community as an integral link between faith and medicine. No matter their faith or chosen religion, any registered nurse who is a member of a congregation is qualified to become a parish nurse. Parish nurses provide medical education, advice and counseling to members of the parish. Their knowledge of faith and medicine allows them to effectively communicate health issues and translate health topics to large groups of people. In addition, parish nurses can use their faith and influential role in the religious community to speak to individuals who are resistant of medicine or treatments. However, parish nurses do not serve as direct medical care providers to parishioners. Rather, they provide spiritual care and health advocacy, while directing or recommending followers to other physicians and specialists.

In order to become a parish nurse, individuals must meet the minimum educational requirements and have sufficient training to enter the specialty. Prospective parish nurses must be currently licensed registered nurses and complete an endorsed parish nurse program. Some parish nurses advance their learning with a master’s or doctoral program that emphasizes nursing and faith ministry. Depending on the chosen program or church, additional training may be required to cover parish nursing duties and to stay updated on medical topics.

Depending on the church and available finances, parish nurses can be paid or un-paid staff members of the congregation. The financial demands and funding of churches greatly affects a parish nurse’s salary, causing many to be volunteers or part-time nurses. According to the ELCA Parish Nurse Association, hospitals and churches often pay for a parish nursing program and nurses’ incomes. Despite receiving low incomes, parish nurses get to interact with parishioners, advocate healthy lifestyle choices and provide spiritual care to people of all ages. In addition, they get the satisfaction of educating their fellow church members, while improving their lives through medicine and faith.