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Parish nursing/faith community nursing "down under".

I recently returned from "down under," Australia and New Zealand, where I spent some time with faith community nurses. A somewhat new specialty practice in those countries, Parish Nursing began in 1991 in Adelaide in the Lutheran Church. In New Zealand, Faith Community Nursing was introduced in 2003 by the Anglican Church.

While the healthcare system in both countries is similar to that of Canada, the practice of many parish nurses there--promoting healthy lifestyles and helping people with chronic diseases--is very similar to the practice of many parish nurses here.

Three of the nurses I visited had stories that are quite interesting. Leonie serves as Parish Nurse in Geelong, Victoria, in the southeastern part of Australia. Her work involves acting as Director of Pastoral Health Services, serving a cluster of three Catholic parishes. Working out of an interdisciplinary model, Leonie has developed a core of volunteer "Angels," working in pairs to help congregational members who are in need. While I was there, teams were helping a family in which the mother had a recurrence of lymphoma. The family has four children and no extended family nearby on which to rely.

The "Angels" call nightly to ask whether help is needed the next day. Some days the family may require a meal, shopping, or taking children to school. "This shares the ministry of healing among the disciples," says Leonie.

Anne, in Napier, NZ, works in a Catholic Parish as an unpaid Faith Community Nurse. Anne's background is in rehabilitation and extended care. She has been ministering at her parish for three years and describes the focus of her ministry as that of advocate and referral agent. She shared with me the story of a parishioner, diagnosed with prostate cancer, who was unaware that he could insist upon getting an appointment with the oncologist at a time that was also good for his wife so that she could be part of the decision making. Anne also recently worked with a family who needed a referral to hospice but lacked the necessary information.

Margaret is a paid Faith Community Nurse at an Anglican Parish in Auckland, New Zealand. Her salary is paid by the parish and a hospital trust fund. She has been in her position for two years and recently had her hours increased from 24 to 32 a week.

While most of Margaret's practice is focused on health promotion programs for the "aging," she also holds a monthly social gathering for the "oldies," those members of the congregation who are in their 80's and 90's! Her next project is a micro-loan assistance fund for members who are unable to afford expenses for items such as dentures and eyeglasses. Those who qualify for the loan could receive up to $1000 per year and would pay back the loan interest-free over a year.

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As you can see, the focus of Faith Community Nursing in these two countries is much the same as in Detroit. The models of practice are similar as well, with two of the nurses being paid and one in an unpaid model. All three have had preparation for their ministry using the IPNRC curriculum. One has had CPE training, as well. What is different, however, is the participation by hospitals in the sponsorship of Faith Community Nursing. In both New Zealand and Australia I met with Directors of Mission in several hospitals to share how the covenant between hospital and faith community has assisted in developing Parish Nursing practice here in the United States.

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What a marvel that Parish Nursing/Faith Community Nursing has found its way to so many places and people around the world! Truly it is a movement of the Spirit and a blessing for all of those involved in or benefiting from this healing ministry.

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This article was solicited from Prof. Judith A. Mouch, RSM, MSN, APRN-BC, University of Detroit, Mercy, College of Health Professions.
COPYRIGHT 2007 International Parish Nurse Resource Center
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Mouch, Judith A.
Publication:Parish Nurse Perspectives
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jun 22, 2007
Words:655
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