The Mark Twain District wanted to try something new, and had some money on hand to help put ideas into action. The district committee came up with a dozen ideas, then narrowed it down to three that they wanted to put money behind. One of those is to provide training and support for people to become a parish nurse.
A parish nurse is a nursing specialty in which a nurse makes a conscious partnering of health issues with the faith of a client and the client’s family. The district has set aside $24,000 for parish nursing training. To participate in the training someone must be a Registered Nurse. The training is 30 hours, and takes place over two weekends. It cost $500, all of which will be paid by the district. The training will be conducted by a certified trainer from the International Parish Nurse Center in Memphis, Tennessee.
The coordinator of the program is Karen Vinzant, a member of Green City UMC. She had wanted to be a parish nurse since she was first in nursing school. In 2010 she completed to the training to do so.
“We put together the spiritual care and physical care,” Vinzant said. “We know when we need to call the pastor, or the doctor.”
Parish nurses are also teaches, leading things like walking programs or other activities to increase the well being of people in the parish.
“We see what the community needs are, and go from there,” Vinzant said.
Sometimes they serve as a trained eyes.
Rev. Andrew Coon of Milan and Green City UMCs is the clergy presence on the Parish Nurse Ministry Team.
“Sometimes people just need to see someone to ask if they need to see a doctor,” Coon said. “In a rural area, going to the doctor might mean taking a day of work.”
They can also help questions about medications, said Beth Kenney, a member of Canton UMC. She is also a parish nurse, and is part of the team and working to get the district training started.
“For some of our people the pharmacist is more than 20 miles away,” Beth said.
Coon likes how parish nursing is another way that moves the church closer toward the idea that church is not just somewhere you go on Sunday mornings.
“This is part of the dynamic of help that a church provides,” Coon said, noting that many churches have programs to provide assistance with food or clothing. “I think if a church becomes known as a place where people care about your health, that can be evangelistic.”
Sometimes elderly people will talk more openly and honestly about their challenges to someone like a parish nurse than they would to a family member, because they fear the family member will tell them they can no longer live independently and they have to move to care facility.
“This encourages some of our lay people to serve the church in the way that they are most comfortable, and can be most helpful,” Coon said.
Although parish nurses must be licensed RNs, a parish nursing program can involve anyone.
“It takes a whole team to provide a health ministry,” Vinzant said. Individuals in the district have already served as parish nurses, but they have been isolated without a connectional effort.
The group is hoping to have the parish nurse training scheduled within the next few months. For more information contact Vinzant at firstname.lastname@example.org.