Nurses To Train For Mind, Spirit, And Body Health


By Deirdre Baker

An approach to healing that combines medical expertise and faith — called "parish nursing," "health ministry nursing" or "faith community nursing" — will be taught in an educational program to begin in February.

Jennifer Hildebrand, R.N., coordinates the health ministry program at Genesis Health System. She has been a nurse for 32 years and embraces the parish nursing approach, describing it as a combination of body, mind and spirit.

"In many areas of health, we've forgotten the mind and the spirit," she said.

Ideally, every faith community in the Quad-Cities would have a process in place to deal with the health needs of a congregation.

This, for instance, could include a "health cabinet," or a group of interested persons united to provide services to those in a faith community.

Last May, a health cabinet in the Diocese of Davenport sponsored a Senior Prom, and Hildebrand said it was a fun, upbeat event that also addressed concerns of loneliness among the elderly. The event was complete with a disc jockey and photo machine.

Importantly, parish nurses do not provide hands-on care, but instead act as a source of referrals for services in a community. They coordinate existing services and supplement them, as well. Common needs are transportation and home visits, Hildebrand said.

In addition, local parish nurses will make referrals, pay a person's light bill, help with meals and babysit for new mothers. "We try to find a person's need and fill it," Hildebrand said. In another example, Hildebrand reviewed the case of a long-married couple, and the wife who faced a terminal illness. The couple was terribly worried after the diagnosis, but Hildebrand met with them and arranged hospice care for the wife.

The educational Health Ministry Nursing sessions are like a retreat for participants, Hildebrand said, with training from a spiritual base, rather than an academic approach.

Classes range from history and the philosophy behind the approaches to legal and ethical issues and care coordination. There also are discussions on "transforming life issues," including one on family violence, and for loss, suffering and grief.

According to a study of faith community nursing practices in the Alegent Creighton Health system, Omaha, parish nursing programs saved $1.9 million in health care costs from 2005-2012.

There are about 15,000 parish nurses in the United States, as tallied by the International Parish Nurse Resource Center, Memphis, Tenn.


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