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Becoming a Parish/Faith Community Nurse and the Role

A Different Kind of Nursing
Faith Community Nursing is a newer specialty in terms of professional nursing roles. Faith Community Nursing emerged as a new kind of nursing in the mid 1980s by Reverend Granger Westberg in Chicago.

What Is a Faith Community Nurse?

A FCN is a registered nurse with an active license in the state he/she has or has had a practice (or be covered by a licensing compact), who has taken a Faith Community Nurse preparation course to promote and practice health ministry. Whereas most health disciplines are trained in our aspect of medical care, FCNs are trained to nurture the whole person — body, mind and spirit. FCNs work in partnership with pastors, churches, hospitals, social service agencies, and the community. FCNs focus on prevention, wholeness, and wellness. In many communities of faith, the FCN is the health ministry team leader.

Roles of a Faith Community Nurse

A Faith Community Nurse is an Integrator of Faith and Health, reminding people to care for the body, mind, and spirit. The parish nurse fills many roles within a faith community. These roles may include:

Health Educator, providing programs in all formats from one-on-one to group seminars, encouraging the understanding of the connection between faith and well-being and the needs of the community at large. Educational programs may include all aspects of physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Coordinator of care, enlisting, training, and assisting volunteers within the faith community to support members with their health and wellness needs.

Resource person, assisting members in identifying and securing appropriate and available resources that address health and spiritual needs across the health care continuum.

Health advocate and counselor, aiding members in the understanding of health concerns and helping members access appropriate health care within the community. In this role, the parish nurse may assist members with life transforming issues.

Member of the pastoral team, collaborating with the spiritual leaders to provide faith education and worship offerings, comfort and support to members in need, and visitation to members in their homes or in various health care settings.

Westberg's Faith Community Nursing
Information about Faith Community Nursing practice and standards, Foundation Courses and other FCN classes and events nationally.

CentraCare, St. Cloud, MN defines the Faith Community Nurse role as follows, accompanied by examples of how the role might be evidenced in practice. Used with Permission.

Faith Community Nursing Roles

Faith community nurses function under specific professional standards and a scope of practice developed by the American Nurses Association and the Health Ministries Association. Faith community nurses believe that the spiritual dimension is central to their practice and involves and incorporates it in their following functions. Not all faith community nurses will carry out each of these functions. The faith community nurses, in collaboration with the pastor, parish members and the health and wellness committee, will determine which functions best meet the needs of the parish.

Integrator of Faith and Health
Promotes an understanding of the relationship of body, mind and spirit and the role of values, attitudes, lifestyle and faith. Examples include:

  • Prayer, presence and active listening
  • Spiritual Assessments
  • Referral to other members of the ministerial team
  • Reframing, encouragement, reassurance
  • Visitation to homes, hospitals and nursing homes

Health Educator
Focuses on a variety of health promotion activities for all ages with the parish. Examples include:

  • Sponsors health fairs
  • Makes health information available in the bulletin and displays
  • Works with other ministries in the parish such as the school, youth groups, women and men’s group to promote health
  • Develops group education programs related to health

Personal Health Counselor
Discusses health issues and concerns with individuals and families. As a health counselor, a parish nurse can help parishioners explore ways to cope more effectively with:

  • Physical problems, emotional struggles and safety concerns
  • Stressful life transitions
  • Referral to appropriate healthcare providers or the healthcare system
  • Assists parishioners in understanding diagnoses, lab results and medications

Referral Advisor
Serves as a liaison between parishioners and resources within the parish, community and healthcare system

  • Promotes community supported food shelf services for everyone, such as local food shelves and Fare For All
  • Assists the uninsured and underinsured to available health options
  • Refers parish members to available social support options

Promotes local, state and national endeavors related to health issues such as smoking, pandemic flu preparation, cancer awareness.

  • Participates in parish activities to address social justice issues
  • Accompanies parish members to health and social support systems as an advocate.
  • Reports abuse and neglect issues to the appropriate social service agency
  • Assists with values clarification around important decisions such as end-of-life issues.

Developer of Support Groups
Assesses the needs of various groups within the parish who would benefit from support options. Examples include:

  • Arranges for qualified individuals to facilitate support groups
  • Provides evidence based support groups such as Chronic Disease Management and A Matter of Balance.
  • Facilitates disease specific support groups and grief/loss groups

Facilitator of Volunteers
Recruits, trains and supervises volunteers for various activities within the parish. Examples include:

  • Blood Mobile coordination
  • First Aid Training for Ushers
  • Education for Parish Home Visitor Volunteers
  • Clinics and screenings within the parish

Last updated: 04/16/2024

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