What Is A Parish Nurse?
Parish nursing is an area of nursing that combines nursing skills with religion. In this line of work you will be required to serve the members of your particular congregation in a way that is in line with the beliefs of your parish. Nurses who work in this area feel both a strong call to the ministry as well as to the field of helping others through becoming a nursing professional. Different parishes may have different requirements, but there are also general requirements for being a parish nurse.
Nature Of The Work/duties
As a parish nurse there are a number of roles that you may or may not fulfill:
- You could be a health educator
- You could be a personal health counselor
- You could be a volunteer coordinator
- You could be a health support group facilitator
- You could be a health resource
As a parish nurse your main focus will be on the whole person, including psychosocial and spiritual health. In a way this is one of the least hands-on nursing roles that you could choose to take as there will be a lower focus on direct patient care a higher focus on the spiritual well being of the person as they are as a whole. The exact duties that you will perform will of course depend on what your parish needs you to do.
When you decide to become a parish nurse you are committing to the fact that you will only work in a very narrow employment segment of the nursing industry. You will be employed in religious setting, such as a church or a synagogue. Once you have completed the necessary courses you can begin looking for a parish that requires a nursing professional to join its team. This is something that the conveners of your parish nursing course may well be able to help you with. It is essential that you are aware of the spiritual beliefs of the parish and that you are willing to commit to those beliefs before the congregation in question can hire as a belief in this regard is an essential aspect of being a parish nurse.
Parish Nurse Requirements
There are a number of educational requirements for being a parish nurse and these are listed below. You need an RN qualification and you need to complete additional parish nurse courses. In addition you need to have a minimum of two years experience working as an RN. Many ministries do, however, prefer if you have something closer to 3 – 5 years of experience working as an RN before employing you to serve the health needs of their congregation. In order to get the necessary experience you can work in:
- Nursing homes
- Doctor’s offices
- Other medical facilities
It goes without saying that you need to share the beliefs of the congregation which you plan to serve in order to serve them in such a way that is in line with their spiritual orientation.
These are the personality traits specific to parish nursing (remember that many general nursing personality traits may also be applicable in your job as a parish nurse moving forward):
- You should believe in the faith of your chosen employer.
- You must have a firm understanding and belief in the ideals of the religious organization for which you want to work.
- You will need leadership skills as you will be required to provide guidance of the overall well-being of the congregation (Note: there is very little emphasis on physical well being).
- You must believe that there is a bridge between personal health and spiritual health.
- You should also be an excellent listener.
- You must be someone who makes other feel as though they can trust you.
The education requirements for becoming a parish nurse are as follows:
- You must have a registered nursing qualification. You can choose between having an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) and a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN), but generally speaking it is better to have a BSN.
- You will need to pass the NCLEX-RN, the national licensing exam for RNs, before you can be a parish nurse.
- There is a certain amount of experience required.
- Last but not least you need to complete some parish nurse training courses. This can be done online or offline and there are plenty of nursing organizations across the country which make this qualification available to registered nurses interested in a faith based career path in the health care industry.
At this point in time there are no licensing requirements to become a parish nurse. In addition there are no set certification guidelines either, although there are activities underway aimed at changing this situation and introducing standardized certification procedures and qualifications and a national portfolio-based certification procedure through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)for nurses across the country who would like to qualify as parish nurses. As things stand at the moment your eligibility to be a parish nurse more or less depends on the parish that would like to hire you. You do, however, need to have an RN license, generally speaking, before you can be a parish nurse. This is achieved by attending an RN program and sitting the required NCLEX-RN exam.
How To Become A Parish Nurse
Training, Advancement And Other Qualifications
In order to become a parish nurse you will have to undergo the same training and certification as all other RN nurses. Generally speaking you will need:
- Years of experience in a traditional setting health care setting, such as a hospital.
- Completion of an educational program approved by the International Parish Nurse Resource Center to earn certification in your specialty.
It can take quite a while form the time you leave high school to the time that you are a qualified parish nurse, so patience will be required. In some cases you may find that your parish is willing to help you fund your parish nursing training and further education, especially if they feel a burning need for a parish nurse in that particular area. Being a parish nurse is a calling that is not suited to everyone, so think carefully before enrolling.
Source An Accredited Education Program
It is very important that the education program that you pursue is accredited and acceptable otherwise you may struggle to find a parish willing to hire you. There are training programs specifically in religious institutions as well as programs that have a mixed outlook on education, combining religion with general nursing practice. Although there are no nationally set standards, there are some training programs with better reputation than others, and these are the training programs that you need to gear your attention towards attending as they will ensure the best career for you in the area of parish nursing in the years to come. The better the school is from which you get your qualification, the better your chances of getting the job you wan tin the church you want will be.
Earn Your Associate’s Degree
Earning your associate’s degree is a good starting point when becoming a parish nurse, but ultimately you will need to hold a master’s degree if you are to be properly certified and licensed as a parish nurse in this particular area of nursing specialization. Although it is possible to be an RN with just an associate’s degree you, if at some point during your RN career decide that you want to specialize in parish nursing, will have to go back to school and complete your qualification so that you are an RN that holds a master’s degree in nursing. This will take anything between 2 and 4 years, depending on the level of education that you have before you enroll in the master’s degree program. Bridging courses are available to make things a little easier for you.
Obtain Your Licensure
As mentioned previously, there are no strict parameters in place that govern the licensing of parish nurses as it does, to a large degree, depends on the personal requirements of the parish which would like to hire you. However the RN license is generally required:
- Firstly you need to attend an RN program which you will only be granted access to if you have a high school diploma or GED.
- Once you have completed the program you will need to apply for licensure form your state board of nursing.
- The state board will review your application and inform you that you are eligible for licensure.
- Once you receive this confirmation you must sit the NCLEX-RN examination in order to become fully licensed.
- Once the board has given you your license it must be renewed regularly.
Online/Distance Education Programs
Once you are licensed to be a nurse you need to take a parish nurse preparation course in order to become a fully fledged parish nurse. This can be done online. This online course comprises of a basic preparation course offered by the IPNRC in partnership with various nursing schools around the country. There are four main sections that make up the course:
- Holistic health
It must be remembered that your initial nurse training cannot be done online, at least not entirely, as there is a certain amount of hands-on clinical experience that you need to get before you can be licensed as a nurse. This means that at least part of your training must be done in a health care setting. Parish nursing is an addition to the knowledge you already have and can therefore be done online.
The nursing industry in general is growing, which means that the job outlook for most nurses is quite good. However over the years there has been a slight, but noticeable decline in the number of parishes across the country, and therefore there ahs been a decline in the number of parish nurses employed, fortunately, as parish nurses are required to have general nursing training as well, this will not present a significant difficulty in terms of finding work as they are also qualified to work in general health care settings. Consequently there are as many job opportunities available for parish nurses as there4 are for RNs with the addition of the various parish nursing positions that are open at the moment.
When it comes to salary and earnings, parish nurses are not at the top of the scale. Often these jobs are voluntary and unpaid. In order to become a parish nurse you need to have a burning desire to serve your parish, regardless of whether or not you will receive high remuneration for the position. There are some parish nurse positions that are paid positions, but these positions will pay rather low rates. On average paid parish nurses only earn something like $15, 000 a year. In comparison to other nursing professions, this is low, but when it comes to parish nursing the point is not to make a lot of money, but rather to fill a need in the community of your church and serve other before serving yourself.
Parish nursing represents a very specific niche of nursing, and it is important that you feel called to this niche. If you do not have the faith required to be a parish nurse you will struggle to fulfill your role as a spiritual guide for the members of your congregation. If at any point you feel that you are doubting your faith it is your responsibility to withdraw as parish nurse until you have take a closer look at yourself and determined whether, if at all, you are able to return to your role as parish nurse. You should also seek guidance yourself and have someone that you can turn to in order to discuss your experiences and worries.