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A letter to President Obama on Parish Nursing.

This letter to President Obama was recently written on June 8, 2009 by Nancy Haughee, Parish Nurse at Pilgrim Lutheran Church, Puyallup, Washington. She is also an Educator with Northwest Parish Nurse Ministries, where Rev. Bruce Strade is the Executive Director. This letter is shared with the permission of both Nancy and Bruce. For more information, visit the website of Northwest Parish Nurse Ministries at

President Barack Obama

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington D.C.

Dear President Obama:

As a nurse for the last 40 years and a Parish Nurse for the last 15 years I have seen health care costs skyrocket and drug companies charge increasingly exorbitant prices for the drugs they hustle on television and in the print media. Health care in the United States is not so much "health care" as it is "sickness care." And it costs us more than other industrialized nations. For what we spend it should be the best in the world however, if one looks at results to judge quality, that is far from the reality of the situation. Life expectancy in the USA is lower and our infant mortality rate is higher than in other industrialized nations. If you are wealthy, health care is excellent and readily available. If you are poor and uninsured, health care is mediocre to nonexistent with the Emergency Room serving as the point of delivery for care. We cannot continue in this insanity.

Like you, I believe in universal health care--it is one of the reasons I voted for you. Everyone should have access to a general practitioner, routine screenings, immunizations and education on healthy life practices. We must focus on prevention rather than on the expensive fixing of problems after they have caused damage. It only makes sense and in the end, it is less costly.

I believe that another part of the solution to our healthcare dilemma is having a Parish Nurse or Faith Community Nurse in the new nomenclature, in every congregation in the nation. Faith Community Nursing began in 1983 as the brainchild of Reverend Granger Westberg who saw the value of having a nurse serve in a congregation. His book The Parish Nurse: Providing a Minister of Health for Your Congregation outlines this ministry and is an excellent introduction to what Faith Community Nursing is all about.

What exactly is a Faith Community Nurse (FCN)? A Faith Community Nurse is a registered nurse who has completed specialized training with the curriculum developed by the International Parish Nurse Resource Center in St Louis, Missouri. This curriculum prepares and supports nurses for work in their faith communities. The actual work of a FCN encompasses eight major roles: Integrator of Faith and Health, Health Advocate, Health Educator, Personal Health Counselor, Recruiter and Trainer of Volunteers, Referral Agent/Liaison between the Congregation and Community Resources, and Developer of Support Groups.

How does a FCN help to further the goal of improved health for his/her faith community and ultimately, the nation? The primary objective of the Faith Community Nurses is to help parishioners take responsibility for their own health and help them understand the many causes of illness. Beyond the more personal enjoyment of life, being "healthy" also provides the energy and vitality to love and serve others and our Creator--a worthy goal to work toward. In Reverend Westberg's words: "The primary thrust of the nurses' work is to identify early cries for help and to intervene before the problems require hospitalization" ....then help individuals understand that health care is part of the responsible stewardship of one's life. With this in mind, it is the role of the nurse to involve people in their own health care and in the care of their neighbors."* Faith Community Nurses see health not as an end in itself but as an ongoing process.

What does it cost? Although many FCNs in the Midwest are full time, paid employees of their faith community, most are part time volunteers giving their time and expertise while working full time in hospitals and/or clinics. Many are retired nurses. Harnessing professional nursing knowledge in faith communities, I believe, would make a tremendous difference in the health of this nation. I encourage you to do all you can to promote and encourage churches, synagogues and mosques to include on their staff either a paid or volunteer Faith Community Nurse. It will benefit the individual religious institution, the immediate community and the nation at large by helping to promote and encourage preventative care and healthy lifestyle as well as serving one another to honor our Creator.


Nancy Haughee, Parish Nurse

Pilgrim Lutheran Church, Puyallup, Washington

Educator, Northwest Parish Nurse Ministries

* Granger Westberg, The Parish Nurse, Augsburg Fortress, 1990, p.17
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Author:Haughee, Nancy
Publication:Parish Nurse Perspectives
Date:Jun 22, 2009
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