What is Parish Nursing?
Parish Nursing is a way of delivering whole person health care through a faith community; the local church appoints a registered nurse, who may already be a member of their congregation, to work for them for an agreed number of hours each week, helping people towards better general health, with an intentional focus on spiritual care. They often do this on a voluntary basis, but maintain their registration and standards of care, working in partnership with NHS health professionals. Parish Nursing started in the U.S. in 1985 and is now in 23 countries. 65 nurses are currently practising from 50 churches in England, Wales and Scotland.
Helen Wordsworth, a Regional Minister for the Central Baptist Association and UK Coordinator for Parish Nursing is a member of Dunchurch Baptist Church. Another of our members, Geoff Waghorn, is a Trustee for Parish Nursing Ministries UK. Here are some examples of the outcomes of this work:
In one Suffolk village, you can go to the post office in the chapel schoolroom, and see the parish nurse too. She may take your blood pressure, check your general health and encourage you in your attempts to eat well and exercise regularly. If she notes anything of concern she will refer you to the GP based in the next village. And if you would like prayer she will do that too. Anyone coming home from hospital gets a visit from one of her trained and coordinated volunteers. She also runs gentle exercise classes at the chapel to help prevent falls in the elderly.
In the middle of a busy Scottish city, the parish nurse works to develop trust and health promotion with the homeless who sit in the church’s porch.
In a Welsh mining town, a nurse based at the church works with children from deprived homes, improving nutrition and providing health education.
In rural Cambridgeshire, the Anglican parish nurse attends a drop- in shop run by church volunteers. She has worked in the area as a district nurse so knows all the local contacts and voluntary agencies. She will put people in touch and make things happen. Prayer is made before and after a visit, and with the client if they request it.
And further north, with the help of a team of enthusiastic volunteers, the village chapel runs a weekly drop-in coffee morning which is also the waiting room for the Parish nurses’ health clinic. One "atheist" gentleman who had recently suffered a tragic family bereavement started attending, at first to keep his diabetes in check, and then to receive care and now prayer with the volunteers. His family are beginning to wonder why he goes so often!
Inspired? Your church can do it too if you have a registered nurse in your congregation. Parish Nursing Ministries UK runs a one-week introductory course for registered nurses, and provides professional networking through nine regional coordinators.
Their vision is …
In doing this they also want to contribute to the body of knowledge surrounding spiritual care; to share their experiences of developing parish nursing in the UK with other countries; and to encourage other faiths to consider doing something to promote health in a way that is appropriate to their own belief systems.
You can help to support Parish Nursing in this vision by prayer, and perhaps by giving – just £5 a month will enable a small church to afford the coordination costs for a parish nurse. In this way you will help to give faith and health, hope, and purpose for living to all kinds of people.
Further information can be gained through the Parish Nursing website.