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Home > Articles > Become a Parish Nurse: Spread Physical and Spiritual Wellness

Become a Parish Nurse: Spread Physical and Spiritual Wellness

By Candice Mancini
Published on December 7, 2009.

Job Duties

Parish nurses, also known as faith community nurses, provide both physical and spiritual healing to their patients. According to the International Parish Nurse Resource Center (IPNRC), parish nurses focus fostering both spiritual and physical wellness in their patients. Parish nurses combine a professional approach to nursing with personal and spiritual care. This type of nursing is very different from nursing in other medical settings that focus on treating illnesses through pharmaceuticals and operations. Instead, parish nurses work with other spiritual leaders to promote a holistic approach to health in wellness.

With this philosophy in mind, a parish nurse might conduct any of the following job duties:

  • Provide traditional nursing services, such as explaining special diet, nutrition, and exercise programs or communicating with physicians about patients
  • Visit church members at home or in hospitals
  • Offer counseling on health or spiritual-related issues
  • Provide wellness education and referrals
  • Develop support groups among community members
  • Train and coordinate volunteers

Job Skills

Like other nurses, parish nurses must be empathetic and caring, and must work well with the sick, injured, and elderly. They should have excellent communication and observational skills. Parish nurses, unlike other nurses, must have strong faiths in spiritual matters, and have the ability to share this faith with others. They must be ready to perform the role of counselor, volunteer coordinator, and be willing to work evenings and weekends.

Income

Very little is published regarding the salaries of parish nursing. Many parish nurses are volunteers or work for small monthly stipends that their faith communities can afford. For this reason, the salary of a parish nurse varies widely. While some report making a part-time salary of $15,000 a year, others make $500 a month. Some parish nurses work as part-time RNs for another employer, such as a hospital or doctor's office, and take on the position of parish nurse as a volunteers or for minimal pay. By working through community agencies, parish nurses can often receive salaries more comparable to other RNs.

Training and Education

According to the IPNRC, parish nurses must be registered nurses (RNs) and meet these other minimum qualifications:

  • A BSN (bachelor's of science in nursing) degree
  • 3-5 years nursing experience
  • Current nursing license in state where the faith community is located
  • Completion of a basic parish nursing preparation course endorsed by the International Parish Nurse Resource Center

Specific training for parish nurses might include courses on: spirituality, including parish nursing history; professionalism, ethics, and law; holistic health such as wellness promotion or suffering, grief, and loss; and community advocacy.

In addition, many parish nurses have community health nursing experience and a background in theological education.

Employment

Parish nurses can be found in congregations or faith communities of every denomination. According to IPNRC's basic preparation course completion records, there are an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 parish nurses in the United States. Parish nurses are also found in 23 other countries, according to IPNRC.

Job Outlook

Although there is little literature to find on job prospects for parish nursing, data from the IPNRC implies strong growth in the profession. Between 2002 and 2008, parish nurses holding positions rose from an approximate 7,000 to 10,000-12,000. Further, the spread of parish nursing from the United States (where it was revived in the twentieth-century) to 23 countries around the world indicates growth. The existence of the annual World Forum for Parish Nursing meeting since 2004 further implies growth.

About the Author
Candice Mancini is a freelance writer and a teacher of AP English literature and college writing. She has an M.A. in Education and a B.A. in English and history.
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