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Parish Nurses

Parish Nursing “Starter Kit” and Resources

Are you interested in starting a parish nurse program but not sure where to begin? You’ve come to the right place. These notes and the documents for downloading below are a “starter kit” for a parish nursing program. Let us walk you through the process step by step and give you the tools and information you need to be successful.

First, let’s start with the basics. A parish nurse is a currently licensed Registered Nurse (RN) who promotes both physical and spiritual wellness in the congregation but he or she needs to act according to the congregation’s mission statement and under the direction of the pastor. This means you need to have a talk with your pastor about your interest in starting a parish nurse program, how a parish nurse program could benefit the congregation, and how it will be structured within the congregation to function within the purpose of the church. It’s possible that your pastor will be unfamiliar with parish nursing and may need some information about how it will benefit your congregation. If it would be helpful, you can show him “A Word to Pastors about Parish Nursing” that contains some points to consider. You can also encourage your pastor to contact the director of WELS Special Ministries for more information.

Secondly, take a look at “Parish Nursing in the WELS: Suggested Guidelines.” This document will help you define what a parish nurse is, create a mission statement, and understand the four main roles of the parish nurse. Next, it will walk you through the necessary education, legal requirements and limits, and an example of how to organize a parish nurse program within the structure of the congregation. Finally, it wraps up with a check list for you to fill out so that with God’s help, you will feel confident that you are ready to begin!

Thirdly, let’s discuss insurance policies. Not all churches carry the same insurance policy and not all policies cover parish nurse programs in the same way. The bottom line is that you will need to contact your church’s insurance provider and discuss your needs with them. Here is a simple list of items for you and your church to consider.

  • Congregations should purchase a policy that covers the parish nurse program. A typical cost for this coverage is $30-40 per year. The policy should cover the parish nurse performing his or her duties at the church, in a personal home, or at another location. It would be beneficial to decide up front how and by whom this cost will be covered.
  • While there is no formal recommendation by a governing body on the topic of personal liability insurance for the parish nurse, it is recommended that parish nurses carry their own liability insurance. State nursing associations often have information on such insurance plans.
  • In most cases, the church’s policy will cover the parish nurse for transportation, but it is beneficial to confirm this with the insurance provider. In general, it is not recommended that parish nurses personally transport members.
  • In the event that the insurance is needed, remember that the parish nurse’s personal liability insurance will be used first, followed by the church’s insurance.

Please don’t let the thought of needing liability insurance make you fearful of starting a parish nurse program. In the Parish Nursing Suggested Guidelines, it states that the four general roles of the parish nurse are health education, health counseling, volunteer coordination, and community liaison. It is helpful to create a detailed job description according to these roles so that the parish nurse can feel confident that as long as he or she abides by this description, he or she is operating within his or her scope of practice. As with other areas of nursing, you will need to organize a way to document your visits with congregation members which will allow you the opportunity to expound on any unusual situations you may encounter that may bring your practice into question. Unsure how to document your work? Check out the Parish Nurse Forms below for some examples!

Fourthly, start small. Don’t expect that in your first week you will see all the shut-in members, visit all the new mothers, and refer dozens of people to just the right resources. Carefully identify an individual or group of people to start with and slowly grow your practice as other needs surface.

Finally, know that as you start your parish nurse program, you are not alone. WELS Parish Nurses will continue to develop resources for you. You can always contact a fellow WELS parish nurse or Special Ministries (specialministries@wels.net) with questions or concerns. There are many current parish nurse programs in WELS churches and those nurses are more than happy to give you encouragement and discuss problems you encounter. You may want to consider obtaining a copy of the American Nurses Association’s Faith Community Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice book as a personal reference. Watch for information about an online parish nurse course offered by Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. While it is not offered every year, it is offered occasionally and is extremely informational. If you desire to take the course, Special Ministries can provide you with information to share with your congregational leaders, asking them to consider sharing the expense.

Is your checklist complete? That means it is time to begin. As with other individuals who serve in a formal position in the church, it is a good idea for you to be installed in your role as parish nurse. This gives the congregation the opportunity to hear you publicly proclaim your willingness to serve in your role. Download the “Rite of Installation – Parish Nurse” for the text for your installation to be used in a church service.

God’s blessings as you use your nursing skills to benefit the family of believers!

Parish Nurse Forms

Reminder: if these forms are filled out with client information, it is the responsibility of the parish nurse to remain compliant with HIPPA regulations. The confidential health information should be able to be accessed and discussed only by those individuals with permission to do so.

Parish Nurse Client Assessment – This form allows the parish nurse to document client demographics, significant physical health history, current medical treatments, and a spiritual health assessment. Rarely, are all elements of the assessment collected on the initial visit. These can be very personal questions and establishing a trusting relationship takes time.

Parish Nurse Care Plan Record – This form allows the parish nurse to document on specific interventions being used for the client who is at risk for spiritual distress due to health problems, advanced aging issues, separation from family support systems or stress due to caregiving. It also has space to record if the client is showing improvement or decline in these areas.

Parish Nurse Notes – This form allows the parish nurse to expound on any unusual findings or discussions while visiting a client and to leave any pertinent reminders for the next visit.

Parish Nurse Activity Log – This form enables the parish nurse to document the amount of time spent with a client, the location, mileage, and methods of communication used.

Policies and Guidelines

Parish Nurse Blood Pressure Ministry Guidelines – Many parish nurse programs conduct blood pressure screenings at their churches. This document has been written to serve as a tool for nurses wanting to begin or refine their blood pressure screening ministry. Any of the information in this guidebook can be printed and copied without needing special permissions. Since these are evidence-based guidelines, it is important that no changes are made to the referral guidelines. Any of the appendices can be altered to meet your ministry needs.

Blood Borne Pathogen Policy – Schools seeking accreditation are required to have a blood borne pathogen policy in place and WELS Parish Nurses have been asked to create such a document. This sample blood borne pathogen policy has been used by multiple Lutheran elementary schools and is available to be downloaded and edited to meet your particular needs.

Caregiver Support Guidelines – The Caregiver Support Program is designed to assist congregations in developing a network of individuals and to organize them to provide support for primary caregivers. There is a growing need to provide assistance to individual caregivers, but the organizational structure is seldom present in congregations or within families. This booklet helps congregations establish the structure and ultimately meet the needs of fellow members who serve as caregivers. When implemented effectively, the Caregivers Support Program provides for the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of the caregiver. At times, the Caregiver Support Program can also supplement the needs of the patient, but that is a secondary goal of this program.

Resources

Health Education Class Ideas – Some parish nurses will offer health education classes at church or school. Here are some ideas of possible classes or topics

Recommended Parish Nurse Reading – Christian and professional books useful for parish nurses.