Faith community nursing is a community-based health promotion, disease prevention specialty practice of nursing. The faith community nurse (FCN) serves the faith community by addressing the needs of the individual parishioner or client, the entire faith community, and the surrounding geographic area. This specialty practice of nursing is focused on caring for the whole person – body, mind, and spirit – with special attention to the individual’s spiritual health within the context of the rites and rituals of a faith tradition. Seeking to live out their vocation, FCNs are called and committed to the healing ministry of religious traditions.

A FCN is a registered nurse, currently licensed in the state of practice, who has completed additional education in the specialty practice of faith community nursing. He/she serves a faith community as a lay professional either directly as a care provider or indirectly as a manager of care provided by other FCNs or lay faith-based health and healing ministers. The practice of faith community nursing is defined by each state’s nurse practice act and standards of practice. Other names include parish nurse, health and healing minister, or congregational nurse.

In 1997, the American Nurses Association designated parish nursing as a specialty practice of professional nursing. As the specialty practice grew nationally and internationally, the term “parish nurse” was not appropriate for many faith traditions. Therefore, the title “faith community nurse” was adopted as it is more inclusive of the practice. Faith community nursing, or parish nursing, is defined as “a specialized practice of professional nursing that focuses on the intentional care of the spirit as well as the promotion of whole-person health and the prevention or minimization of illness within the context of a faith community and the wider community.” (ANA & HMA, 2017, p.1).

As community-based care providers, FCNs work with other health care providers and faith community leaders to organize and implement health promoting and spiritually healing activities. A current example of the FCN’s role would include working with the leadership team to assist in implementing national/state/local guidelines for facility safety by creating policies/procedures or develop programming to address issues of social isolation and spiritual distress. The role may include assisting individuals to integrate their faith and health, providing health education and health-related counseling, helping individuals find support groups and services within communities, and serving as an advocate for health. The FCN may provide specific activities such as offering comfort and prayer during times of crisis and celebration, referring parishioners to various support services including older adult programs or grief support, offering tips related to maintaining a healthy lifestyle in the parish newsletter, coordinating seminars on stress management or infant massage, and providing screening for hypertension. It is important to identify that the FCN’s focus is on the intentional care of the spirit and therefore he/she does not provide “hands-on” nursing care. Their work is not a substitute for pastoral care, medical assistance, community health nursing or social services. Faith community nurses work in partnership with others to advocate for the health and wellbeing of the faith community.

Since 1991, Concordia College has prepared more than 1,700 nurses to serve in faith communities across the United States. Concordia’s Parish Nurse Ministry program offers foundations courses (educational preparation programs) at select times in the year. The next educational course will be offered June 7-11, 2021 at First Lutheran Church (619 North Broadway), Fargo, ND. This program has been approved by the Alabama State Nurses Association for 36.5 contact hours. The Alabama State Nurses Association is accredited as an approver of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation (ANCC).

For additional information about faith community / parish nursing and available foundations of faith community nursing preparation courses, contact Dr. Jean Bokinskie, Director of the Parish Nurse Ministry Program, Concordia College. She can be reached at bokinski@cord.edu or 218.299.3925. Visit our website at ConcordiaContinuingStudies.com/parishnurse.