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Tending to the health of body & soul

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Snapshots of parish nursing

“Fostering healthy communities through Christ’s healing ministry”

I have always been interested in missions, but I wasn’t sure where God was leading until I found my niche in community nursing. Training in parish nursing showed a new type of nursing to which I felt called.

Having experienced how effective a parish nurse could be to non-churched people as they deal with illness, life changes, and perhaps even death, I knew my home church’s vision and mission – to be active and relevant in the community – could include the role of a parish nurse. Today, I volunteer as parish nurse in the Bridges ministry, an outreach to our community’s marginalized, working poor, and new immigrants through food and clothing assistance and “coffee friendship,” at Glencairn MB Church, Kitchener, Ont.

The blood pressure clinic – the only hands-on care given – is a personal, non-threatening way of meeting clients. I’ve found people will readily open up and share in transparent ways. In adding the spiritual dimension of the listening ear and praying heart, there is often freedom to relate to faith issues. As a client’s needs are realized, I have opportunity to connect him or her with a Glencairn volunteer.

–Joyce Lewchuk, RN, community nurse for 30 years, has worked for the Victorian Order of Nurses and other agencies in southwestern Ontario. She has taken parish nurse training at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ont., and through InterChurch Health Ministries. She has worked as parish nurse at a Bible college and a senior’s complex.


The language of faith and health

“Faith needs the language of health in order to understand how it applies to life: health needs the language of faith in order to find its larger context, its meaning.”

—Gary Gunderson,
Deeply Woven Roots: Improving the Quality of Life in Your Community.

Spirituality and physical well-being are inseparable. We live out our faith in our physical body, so when it is broken and diseased, the spirit also suffers.

Parish nursing puts spirituality at the centre of care and includes spiritual practices and concepts to promote health and healing.

It is in providing end-of-life care that as a parish nurse I have been able to provide the most effective nursing care. While not providing physical treatment, I coordinate care, ensuring that the most appropriate care is given at different stages of illness. Families of the dying need reassurance, teaching, and grief support. The parish nurse collaborates and communicates with health care agencies and with pastors, who anoint, pray for healing, and administer Communion. Unique to parish nursing is a spiritual assessment, and the encouragement of spiritual practices and rituals, in community or individually, such as prayer, Scripture reading, hymn singing.

The faith community nurse enables churches and communities to reclaim their role in health care. Our churches are in the best position to minister to our congregations during the transitions of life: birth, marriage, aging, and dying. No other community can help us to find purpose, meaning, hope, forgiveness, and transcendence – all of which have a profound effect on our health.

–Gloria Wiebe, RN, established parish nursing ministry at Toronto’s St. James Cathedral in 1998. She studied nursing at Vancouver General Hospital; theology, church history, and music at MBBC, Winnipeg; and at University of Toronto. She has completed parish nursing preparation courses at McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, Ont., and InterChurch Health Ministries in Oshawa, Ont., and was president of the Parish Nursing Interest Group of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario.

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