Faith Community Nursing: The Intersection of Faith and Health

Faith and health: the link between the two is the foundation of one of the Ida V. Moffett’s most compelling outreach programs. Congregational health ministries -- health related programs aimed at entire faith communities -- are gaining strength in churches throughout the nation, and one of the most significant movements has been the growth of the Parish Nurse, or as they are called today, the Faith Community Nurse.

Faith community nursing is a recognized specialty practice, according to the American Nursing Association, and a professional model of health ministry. It is a practice that focuses on the intentional care of the spirit, while promoting wholistic health and preventative care. Most importantly, faith community nurses integrate faith and health to help parishioners lead healthier lives, physically and spiritually. Through education and collaboration with other community resources, these specialized nurses help people understand their own health issues and take proactive steps to greater health. The faith community nurse will collaborate with (and make referrals to) other community resources, when necessary, while creating support groups for people in need. And critically, they are advocates for their patients overall health, often times coordinating services for people who have no other options. Their specific services vary according to the needs of the congregations, but might include coordinating blood pressure screenings, organizing health related guest speakers, maintaining health educational bulletin boards, leading diabetes and cancer support groups, delivering flu shots and weight loss programs.

Because faith community nursing is a recognized specialty, nurses who choose this career path undergo additional education beyond their nursing degree. The Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing has been educating faith community nurses since 1999, when they became one of the first 50 nursing schools to offer the Basic Preparation for Parish Nurses courses.

The course is based on the standardized core curriculum developed through the International Parish Nurse Resource Center in consultation with the National League for Nursing and the American Nurses Association Credentialing Center. The course requires five full days of content and is usually offered in a retreat setting. Through a cooperative relationship between the School of Nursing, the Alabama Woman’s Missionary Union/Baptist Nursing Fellowship and Baptist Health System, we’ve educated more than 500 Parish Nurses since the program began. While the majority of our students come from Alabama, the course has attracted nurses throughout the Southeast. At the Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing, Faith Community Nursing is a part of our larger Congregational Health Program aimed at ministering to congregations throughout the South.

The Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing offers the faith community nursing class each year in February or March. They also offer refresher courses in the fall every other year to keep faith community nurses connected and informed on new trends in the specialty.