Parish Nursing Career Profile

Parish nursing, or faith-based nursing, is a wonderful specialization choice for those looking to combine their work in healthcare with their faith. It is a newer specialty, rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and has only been recognized by the American Nurses Association (ANA) for about ten years. A parish nurse works within the framework of beliefs and values held by their community of faith. They are not primary caregivers, but rather an important link between the church and the healthcare system, connecting spiritual support with healing and medical care. They are trained registered nurses, but work on the church’s staff and as part of the ministerial staff.

This type of nursing specialty usually has a wide variety of duties that can vary depending on the needs of their church. Parish nurses usually maintain part-time office hours for church members to visit, but they do not always perform the routine exams and assessments that nurses in clinics, physicians’ offices and hospitals do. Some typical tasks include providing medical doctor referrals, visiting church members in the hospital, nursing home, or at their home while they are sick or recovering from illness or surgery. Offering emotional support for members who are ill or their family members is a huge component of this job. Nurses are often associated with empathy and comfort. While they are well trained healthcare professionals, in certain specialties offering this type of emotional support is indeed a key part of their role. Health education is often another big aspect of their job, providing advice, setting up forums or panels on health and wellness topics for the benefit of their congregation.

These are trained nurses, so if parish nursing is something that interests you, you must first become a registered nurse. You can earn your nursing degree in just two to three years by earning your associate degree (ASN) in nursing at a vocational school or community college. Earning your bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) at a four year college or university is also an option, and ideal for providing you with more job opportunities. Many parish nurses have even earned their master’s degree, or earned additional degrees in fields such as theology, education, or psychology. Once you complete your degree, you will need to take and pass the NCLEX exam (National Council Licensure Examination) given by your state’s board of nursing. Passing this makes you a licensed registered nurse (RN).

The International Parish Nurse Resource Center offers additional courses in parish nursing, which are offered with the help of parish nurses and educators in many locations throughout the country. This curriculum is not required, but would be very beneficial in preparing you for this unique nursing specialty. On November 3, 2009 the Health Ministries Association and the International Parish Nurse Resource Center agreed to temporarily halt the Parish Nurse Certification program administered through the the American Nurse Credentialing Center until they could reassess their strategies and what the organizations wanted certification to stand for. In the mean time, complete a professional nursing program and then find a Parish Nursing program that can help prepare you for working in this profession.

Opportunities for parish nursing are clearly not as plentiful as standard registered nursing positions, but their numbers are growing. Mean salary is also difficult to determine and can vary greatly. Some factors influencing it are the congregation’s budget, the congregational size, and the overall duties of the nurse in that church. Some parish nurses are employed part-time, and many are unpaid volunteers. For many seeking this avenue in nursing, this job choice is more than a job, but also a vocation that brings with it great fulfillment.

You may also want to learn more about the Missionary nursing, Transcultural nursing and School nurse fields. These areas of nursing attract nurses with simialr beliefs, lifestyles and goals that parish nursing does.

(Sources: ParishNursing.net, Bureau of Labor Statistics, ECLA Parish Nurse Association, ParsihNurses.org, University of Maryland, Health Sciences & Human Services Library - Faith Community Nursing Health Resources

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