Parish nurses provide pastoral nursing, not hands-on care. They are registered nurses who provide education, counseling, referral, advocacy and volunteer coordination.
Working within the context of their faith community, parish nurses focus on holistic healing. Spirituality as a key part of health and healing is a core concept no matter where the parish nurse ministers.
Concerns of a parish nurse include, but are not limited to: credibility within their parish or congregation, negotiating their role within the parish to satisfy the needs of the community, provide congregational wellness, and referral to community programs. Parish nurses may also work outside their congregation in the context of their town or community.
Faith community nurses are Christian parish or congregational nurses, Jewish Congregational Nurses and Muslim Crescent Nurses, among nurses of other faith communities. Faith community nurses are coordinated in every state of the United States. Nurses may travel outside the United States and are found in Australia, England, Ghana, Korea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore and Zimbabwe, among other nations.
Parish Nursing Profile
(also known as Christian/Faith Community Nursing, Church/Health Ministry Nursing)
Registered Nurse (RN program)
Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN program) and Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN program) usually do not work as parish nurses as most are registered nurses with years of experience.
Coursework includes 30 or more hours of parish nurse instruction. Topics include: theology of health, church employment, legal issues and the role of the parish nurse. The American Nurses Associations recognizes this specialty practice coursework and the Faith Community Nurse designation.
Parish Nurse Wage/Salary:
RN: $0 (volunteer) any wages and/or salary are dependent on church finances and job scope
There are around 15,000 faith community nurses in the United States. Around two-thirds of those nurses are volunteers in unpaid positions.
Parish Nurse Job Description/Purpose:
Parish nurses are mature, experienced practitioners who focus on ministering to the parish community as part of the clergy’s interdisciplinary team. Parish nurses partner with the faith of their clients as well as with their client’s health care issues. What sets the parish nurse apart from other registered nurses is that the parish nurse intentionally administers to the faith needs of clients, congregation and community.
Knowledge, Skills and Qualifications:
- Current state licensure
- Minimum 2 years experience as a registered nurse
- Understanding of congregational dynamics
- Understanding the spiritual dynamics of the parish
- Concept of mind/body/spirit triune care
- Understands and complies with accepted professional nursing standards and practices
- Understands and can explain advance directives
- Understands and can explain wills and their difference from advance directives
- Understanding the limits and boundaries of a parish nurse as opposed to the “hands-on” nurse
- Ability to work as an interdisciplinary team member
- Comfortable with prayer as a group
- Independent worker needing little or no supervision who can also function in a fellowship role with ministry and parish members
- Flexibility in nursing role
- Teaching patient to become a functioning member of his team by assisting in own care, as possible
- Adhering to state and agency quality standards of care
- Meeting with members of the team
- Maintain patient confidentiality
- Recognizes family members as part of the interdisciplinary team
- Continuing education maintenance
- Pediatric nursing care knowledge
- Geriatric nursing care knowledge, including depression and loneliness as it relates to aging
- Hospice care knowledge
- Palliative care knowledge
- Exemplary Assessment Skills Relating to Church Ministry
- Teaching Stress, Change and Self-Care
- Spiritual Intervention
- Community resource counseling
- Organizational skills
- Clear, concise communication skills
- Bereavement skills
- Excellent “Bedside” Manner
- Holistic Health Skills and Knowledge
- In-home behavioral skills for the bed-bound patient
- Community Nursing
- Interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary team member
- Ability to relate one-to-one with patient and with family members
- Listening and oral communication skills
- Implementation of the Spiritual Care Delivery System
- Health promotion
Daily routines vary depending on the needs of the parish or congregation. Some weeks you may work five hours, others you may work 40 hours or more.
Parish nursing isn’t expected to grow as quickly as other areas of nursing as it is mostly a volunteer position. Larger congregations may pay a substantial salary if parish finances and need is plentiful.
Resume or curriculum vitae usually required as well as one or more interviews for employment.
Parish nurses should continue grow within their ministry by updating their knowledge through taking continuing education units (CEUs) and by taking part in any extra opportunities for nursing education, part or full-time traditional or online nursing programs or teaching opportunities.
- Traditional University Programs
- Mental Health Nursing programs
- Community Nursing programs
- Continuing Education Units
- Online RN programs
- Online LPN programs will not likely benefit you as most parish nurses are registered nurses.
Each state has parish nursing associations with information particular to that state.
The American Nurses Association: The largest nursing organization in the United States, The ANA provides parish and other nursing occupations with membership, education, credentialing and career information, professional nursing practice and ethics information, including government and other legislative issues and health care policy.
The Hospice Foundation of America: Provides end-of-life care resources for nurses and other members of a patient’s interdisciplinary team. Parish nurses will find hospice knowledge helpful in their ministries.
Interfaith Health and Wellness Association: Resources for faith-based nurses to aid in their nursing career.
Parish Nursing Links of Interest:
International Parish Nurse Resource Center: Helps the international body of parish nurses to explore ways to incorporate parish nursing into their body of faith.
Visiting Nurse Associations of America: Supports all types of nursing staff. Includes advocacy, continuing education and resources.
Journal of Christian Nursing: Journal of best practices and research regarding parish nursing. Types of articles include conveyance of what a parish nurse is as opposed to a faith community nurse and domestic violence and the role of the parish nurse.