Faith Community Nursing
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; Send Me!” -Isaiah 6:8
Faith Community Nursing is a ministry within the faith community that works with the pastor as part of the church staff and a health cabinet of other caring members to fulfill the healing mission of the church.
Faith Community Nursing grew out of the holistic health care programs started by Granger Westberg, D.D., in the Chicago area in the 1970’s. Holistic health care centers were established with teams comprised of a physician, a nurse and a pastor. Granger Westberg in his book, The Faith Community Nurse, stated that the nurses were seen as catalysts in getting representatives of medicine and theology to talk with each other. Ultimately, Granger Westberg turned to the concept of a Faith Community nurse working in the church on staff with the minister.
In 1987, the International Faith Community Nurse Resource Center was established to do research and Faith Community nurse preparation. In 1989 the Health Ministries Association (HMA) began as an interfaith organization for those promoting health and wellness in congregational health ministries. The HMA developed the Scope and Standards of Faith Community Nurse Practice that was recognized by the American Nurses Association (ANA) in 1998. The ANA designated Faith Community nursing as a specialty in 1997. In 1997, the International Faith Community Nurse Resource Center endorsed a core curriculum as preparation for the Faith Community nurse. It was reviewed and revised in April of 2000. There are about forty locations in the United States utilizing the endorsed curriculum for Basic Faith Community Nurse Preparation.
Southern Illinois Healthcare introduced the concept of health ministries with Faith Community nurses in 1998. It is also one of the few health care systems in the country that sponsors a course with the endorsed curriculum.
Role of the Faith Community Nurse
- Personal health counselor – Discusses health issues and problems with individuals; makes home, hospital, and nursing home visits as needed.
- Health educator – Seeks to educate and support individuals of all ages through a variety of educational activities with an emphasis on prevention and wellness. Promotes an understanding of the relationship between values, attitudes, lifestyle, faith and well-being.
- Health advocate – Assures necessary services are obtained by supporting and encouraging the parishioners to make good choices, and speaking for them when they cannot speak for themselves.
- Referral source – Acts as a liaison to other congregational resources and to community services.
- Facilitator – Recruits, coordinates, and resources volunteers within the congregation. Develops support groups.
- Interpreter of the relationship between faith and health – In all activities, seeks to promote an understanding of the relationship between values, beliefs, behaviors and well-being.
Potential Benefits of Faith Community Nurse
- Lends extra hands, ears, and hearts to the pastor with their caring presence
- Enhances the vitality of congregational life
- Transforms the congregation into a more caring community
- Increases sensitivity to the needs of others
- Provides respite care for primary care givers
- Provides a holistic approach to helping the community of God’s people
- Improves access to shared church and community resources
- Raises awareness of concepts of wellness, health, healing, and our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit
- Offers a new dimension for the concept of stewardship-professionals and non-professionals using their gifts of time and talent for those in need
- Empowers people to assume a pro-active stance in promoting healthy lifestyles within the church and community
- Enhances opportunities for faith-sharing
- Provides a relationship-building model for individuals and the community through inter-faith and inter-denomination collaboration
- Embodies a faith community’s theological precepts in a concrete way