In the March issue of the newsletter we explored the ways church records reveal health care issues of members and the community and how these records documented the devastation of illnesses such as diphtheria, cholera, typhoid fever, or measles. A more detailed look at these records provides evidence of the church’s role in providing a certain level of health care to those in need as well.
Through the years, this trend toward health care for the whole person led to the development of an independent nursing practice called “parish nursing,” a specialized practice of nursing and health ministry. A Parish Nurse is a registered professional nurse who as a member of the ministerial team provides holistic nursing services to members of the congregation. While Parish Nurses do not provide “hands on” services like home health or invasive procedures, they do work collegially with other health professionals from other agencies to enhance health care delivery to members of their faith community. A Parish Nurse is able to establish and maintain longer term relationships with the members served because they do not have the same constraints as nurses who work in other agencies. By empowering individuals to be proactive about their health, the parish nurse maintains wellness.
In May 1998, LiAnne Kitchen, a registered nurse and member of the church, proposed establishing a Parish Nurse Ministry at St. Peter’s. She had completed Phase I of the Parish Nurse Preparation Institute from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and was currently enrolled in Phase II of the program. During this time, LiAnne also purchased malpractice insurance, created the necessary forms for a professional practice in parish nursing, developed and circulated a health survey within the congregation, and collaborated with other area parish nurses to begin building a church resource library. She received permission to proceed with this position on a voluntary basis in June 1998.
The Parish Nurse program is customized to meet the needs of the congregation as well as the gifts and talents of those who provide the care. Committee members who have assisted LiAnne with this program include: Bonnie Joop, Gladys Hemp, Mary Casey, Omer Benn, Susie Kuhne, and Mark Williams. Main activities of the program fall within the following categories: Health Education, Health Counseling and Care Activities, Linkages with other Health Providers, and Professional Development. The congregation has benefitted from the following examples of activities: newsletter articles, Vial for Life program, the purchase of an Automated External Defibrillator for the church and CPR and AED training, blood pressure monitoring, medication counseling, and in-home, hospital and nursing home visits.
St. Peter’s is fortunate to continue to benefit from LiAnne Kitchen as our Parish Nurse. She is available to help us learn how to have a healthier holistic lifestyle and to navigate the complex health care system as needed. Take a moment to talk to LiAnne about the program – better still, join her ministry team!