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Evaluation of a church nurse education program.

The following is the summary of a research project conducted by Myrna Cassimere, PhD, RN, Consultant at the McFarland Institute in New Orleans and two students from Loyola University in New Orleans-Shawnette Gaines, RN, and Nicole Green, RN, AND.

"The mission of the Congregational Wellness Division of the McFarland Institute is to promote health and wellness in the greater New Orleans Area." One of the methods to accomplish this goal is the Church Nurse Education Program (CNEP) using the International Parish Nurse Resource Center (IPNRC) Basic Parish Nurse Preparation Curriculum. The McFarland Institute introduced church nursing to the Greater New Orleans area in 1997 with a pilot program in three churches. The term "church nurse" was selected to avoid confusion with civil parish health departments. Since that time, more than two hundred registered nurses have graduated from the CNEP. These nurses volunteer their time and talents to develop, implement and evaluate health and wellness ministries in more than 100 churches throughout the southern Louisiana parishes.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the CNEP. The survey, the Church Nurse Education Program Graduate Survey, was based on a comprehensive evaluation tool designed by the educators at The McFarland Institute and based on the IPNRC curriculum. The population was 210 nurses who have graduated from the program from its inception in 1997 through the class of May 2007. Some contact information could not be verified for a variety of reasons, so the final sample was 98 church nurses. The survey consisted of nineteen items rated on a Likert type scale and four subjective response items. The following questions were posed: 1) Has the curriculum sufficiently prepared the church nurse to serve in the role more than one year after the class? 2) Has the church nurse had the opportunity to use all or part of the material taught in class? 3) Do nurses who have completed the program six months or more see deficiencies in their educational preparation? 4) Do church nurses prepared by McFarland feel they have the knowledge, attitude, and skills needed to practice as a church nurse? 5) What factors contributed to the success of the educational program offered by McFarland? 6) What factors may have had a negative impact on the success of the program offered by McFarland? and 7) Were there any unexpected benefits of the CNEP?

Data was collected over a thirty day period via telephone and email. Pastors of churches who employ a church nurse trained by the CNEP were also surveyed. 35 of the 98 surveys distributed were returned for a response rate of 35%. Graduates were satisfied that the program was beneficial and accomplished the goal of providing them with the knowledge, attitude, and skills needed to begin a health ministry in their congregations. Many of the respondents expressed an appreciation for the spiritual component of the program and some offered suggestions for improvements.

Several themes around the benefits of the program were generated by the survey, including an appreciation of the spiritual aspect of the course for them personally as well as the opportunity to incorporate spirituality into their practice. Another theme that emerged was the ability for fellowship and developing relationships with nurses who expressed similar feelings about spirituality and physical care that occurred during the CNEP. A third beneficial theme that emerged was the access to resources which included those distributed in class and available from the library at The McFarland Institute.

Other themes involved suggestions for improvement. Negatives included the time component, particularly the length of the classes and the days offered, as well as the location of the classes. A consensus pointed to corrections that classes be offered after working hours, on weekends, and in other parishes besides New Orleans. Other themes included improving recruitment, time and content changes, continuing education, and mentorship. Several respondents offered suggestions for expanding the program and course offerings, advertisement, and recruitment of more churches to be active in Congregational Health Ministry. Several graduates also expressed the desire for additional content education on personal counseling and working with volunteers. There was also a request for addition of gender issue content, and refresher courses for nurses more than five years past completion of the CNEP.

A mentorship program was also discussed by several graduates, with the emphasis on an experienced nurse to help initiate and organize the program at its inception, and to serve as a resource person after the initial phase of the CNEP. The need for continuing education also emerged as a theme, and suggestions included education to occur with quarterly meetings held during evenings and on weekends, and the establishment of a newsletter for additional communication. Additional comments such as praise for faculty professionalism and knowledge base of parish nursing and course content were also acknowledged.


1) Repeat the survey in one year. 2) Add more recent graduates to the next survey. 3) Attempt to determine if the environment in the city post Hurricane Katrina has altered the need for volunteer Church Nurses. 4) Improve and expand the list of contacts and repeat the study. 5) Explore the personal spiritual growth stated by some participants. 6) Consider offering a refresher course.

For more information about the study, contact
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Author:Cassimere, Myrna; Gaines, Shawnette; Green, Nicole
Publication:Parish Nurse Perspectives
Date:Jun 22, 2008
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