Build Your Team – A Clergy & Faith Community Nurse Collaboration
Faith Community Nursing (FCN), also known as Parish Nursing, was established at St Mark Presbyterian Church in 1995 with two Registered Nurses, MaryAnn Robinson and Sue Work, who decided to provide a ministry of care and support. Over the years it grew into a Care Team and a Health Commission with Elder representation that reports to the ruling body of Session. Ann Scott, BSN, RN, CMCN joined the team and became Parish Nurse in 2011. Ann has an integrative relationship with Associate Pastor Hayes Noble who provides Staff support to the Health Commission, and Head of Staff Pastor Mark Davis. She immediately joined the Hoag Faith Community Nurse Program for collaboration and support. Pastor Hayes came to St. Mark in 2018 and had never worked with a FCN. He can now say ‘every congregation should have a Parish Nurse and Health Ministries team!’
Ann became a member of St Mark in 1993 and knew the members at her church faced aging issues while younger families had mental, physical, educational, and/or spiritual concerns. When she became Parish Nurse, she didn’t need direction in knowing how to run programs or in identifying congregational needs. She relied on her years of bedside nursing and later as a Case Manager.
As Ann and Hayes got to know each other, a mutual trust was built. They learned of each other’s strengths, where one could step in to support the other when discussing the needs of a person, a family or other unique situation, and learned areas where boundaries exist. Both professions are bound by confidentiality, and both know their professional scope of service; there are roles for clergy and roles for faith nurses. The world becomes richer when the two intersect. The clergy and the FCN can be a support for each other in the overarching goal of caring for church members, each capitalizing on their God-given strengths.
How does this work at St Mark? By integrating with programs long-established, clergy and the Faith Nurse are apprised of who is in need – whether it be someone in need of a home/hospital visit, explaining a medical concern, facing a devastating illness, or grieving a loss. At that point, depending on the nature of the situation, the care can be assigned to either the clergy or the nurse, or both. The role of the Faith Community Nurse is to liaison with clergy in his/her/their support of the congregation. The many facets of the role include integration of faith and health, community resources advocate, health counselor, educator, and spiritual well-being.
In order to build a strong Faith Nursing Program, according to Pastor Hayes “the FCN needs to be integrated into the overall church structure – they have so much to offer.” Ann acknowledged how important clergy support is to the FCN – in mentoring, leadership development and inclusion as a valued staff member. They both agreed that a paid FCN position allows for consistency and expanded services that benefit a congregation in need.
Nurses in the role of the FCN know what they are doing. Each FCN will bring their unique background and skill set to the position and each church will have different circumstances, both will shape the look of the programs being offered. Once you establish trust with the FCN, Pastor Hayes recommends ‘Let them run. A FCN can support you in your work as clergy and may even be able to protect your day off!’
This article was submitted to the Presbytery of Los Ranchos by Susan Johnson, RN-BC, MPH, Program Manager, Faith Community Nursing, Spiritual Care Department, Faith Community Nurse.