History of Parish Nursing
The 1980's began a new movement in healthcare. Diagnosis related groups (DRGS) determined what a diagnosis should require in cost reimbursement through Medicare. Wellness outcomes are not predictable and many patients were requiring more care than medical reimbursement wanted to provide. As a result of this change in healthcare management, patients were being discharged earlier and sicker.
In 1983 Lutheran Chaplain Granger Westberg proposed an experimental program to assist with medical crisis. He enlisted six Chicago congregations, four Lutheran and two Catholic to hire a nurse to care for parishioners. (Granger discovered that nurses made the easiest and most natural connection with parishioners.) Chicago Hospital Lutheran General agreed to sponsor the program by paying 3/4ths of the salary the first year, half the second year and 1/4th the third year. By the fourth year, the church was paying the full salary and more churches could be added to the program.
The Parish Nurse provided support for those discharged early from the hospital and assisted in referring congregants to health care facilities when needed. Health promotion became a necessary to component of the health and healing ministry. Hundreds of congregations now have parish nurses – many different denominations. Many churches use the model of incorporating a parish nurse as a staff member as developed by Granger Westberg. Hospitals and care facilities are finding parish nursing as a good source of outreach and prevention of unnecessary visits to the emergency room or admission to a care facility.
The Evangelical Lutheran Parish Nurse Association (ELPNA) is a nonprofit membership organization comprised of registered nurses who are affiliated with an ELCA or other Lutheran congregation or who are Lutheran and providing ministry in a congregation of another religious denomination. It was founded in 2004, with the first membership list including 65 nurses in the Minneapolis and St. Paul Area Synods of Minnesota.
See JOIN US for more information on ELPNA membership.
In Memory of Valborg Tollefsrud
by Phyllis Bruce, RN, MA
In August ELPNA Membership Committee made a recommendation to the Board of Directors that Valborg Tollefsrud become our first Honorary Lifetime Member Emeritus. Valborg is pictured here holding her framed certificate. On September 10, I had the privilege of meeting with Valborg in her apartment and presenting this certificate to her. She asked me to convey her deep appreciation for this honor.
A Valborg Tollefsrud Scholarship Fund was started by some of her former students in her honor and the ELPNA Board of Directors recommended that these funds be used for an annual educational event.
Valborg was able to remain in her apartment until she passed away on October 22. Her obituary can be found here: https://www.startribune.com/ obituaries/todays/?page=21.
The Celebration of her life was November 1, 2021, at her church, Minnehaha Communion Lutheran. It was just after Reformation Sunday and on All Saint’s Day! Reverend Lee Halstrom wondered in his message if she had planned it this way, just as she had planned her service! Valborg had been in church the prior Sunday and had planned, with Rev. Halstrom, to give a talk on stewardship the next Sunday. She wanted her talk and had planned her memorial service to be about serving God and not about her. Truly, Valborg is a model of living fully whatever our circumstances. Her service was attended by her few family members, but mainly by her former students, parish nurse colleagues, and church friends. We lifted up our voices together in singing the grand Lutheran hymns; A Mighty Fortress is Our God, My God How Wonderful Thou Art, My Jesus I Love Thee, and Oh God, Our Help in Ages Past. Many wonderful stories were shared about her as we had lunch together following the service. Her presence will be missed here but celebrated in heaven!