The year 1944, Dr. Granger Westbery, a 31 year old Lutheran Minister and parish Pastor, was convinced that the body could not be treated separately from the mind and spirit. He became the first hospital chaplain fulltime and continued to work to integrate religion into the medical curricula. This was accomplished in 1956. History continued to be made in our country and by 1985 a piolet project was formally instigated. Six nurses were chosen to collaborate in the study of which churches and synagogues were an integral part of the health system, especially in preventive medicine. From this, Parish Nursing was born, the goal being “protection, promotion, and optimization,” of health and activities.
July 2013 the nurses of Immaculate Conception Parish came together and established a Parish Nurse Ministry at the request of Fr. Casey Mahone, our pastor. A retired nurse who is on the parish board acted as our leader since she is a certified parish nurse minister. She brought us up to speed on the purpose and function of a parish nurse. We learned that parish nurses do not do direct patient care but act a liaison between the community and the health care system. She said our first act should be to develop a mission statement which should be short and reflect the overall mission of the ministry. This was the goal for our next meeting.
At our next meeting everyone put their heads together and developed this simple statement. “To enhance the overall health of our parishioners (mind, body, and spirit) with a focus on integrating the practice of faith with the practice of nursing". In the beginning we focused on our parish but quickly expanded to surrounding parishes.
One of the group’s first activities was to survey parishioners to determine their needs and wants. We developed a simple survey and listed a group of topics we thought the people might be interested in. At our next meeting we reviewed the results. We identified the following topics as having the highest level of interest:
Exercise 62% First aid and CPR 44%
Nutrition 56% Diabetes 30%
Stress management 56% Cancer information /prevention 30%
Heart and blood pressure health 53%
From these findings we started to brainstorm about how we, as a ministry, could develop a strategy to address these needs. We quickly realized we had a wealth of resources in our parish and set forth to develop these resources.
October, 2013 we initiated our blood pressure clinics. After every Mass on the last full weekend of each month, blood pressures are taken in the church. Findings are recorded and parishioners are counseled accordingly. We developed a form which includes basic patient information which are inserted into a manila folders and are stored in plastic file boxes that are kept secure. Our clinic has identified several parishioners with elevated blood pressures who were advised to seek medical treatment. One such parishioner was diagnosed with heart problems after being referred by our BP clinic. She had no previous symptoms but because she decided to have her blood pressure checked, this abnormality was discovered. Others have had medication adjusted. Many of the repeat participants use the clinic to monitor their blood pressure readings between doctor visits. Statistics are compiled every month and reported at our monthly meetings.
In 2014 we created an “IC PARISH NURSE NEWSLETTER”, which includes a ministry report, health tips & information, and recipes. The newsletters are copied by the parish office and distributed with the Sunday bulletins. These news letters are all posted on our website.
In May of 2014 our first presentation on “Diabetes” was made by a Certified Diabetic Educator who provided basic information on Diabetes and how to control it while living a normal life. Each participant learned to monitor their own blood sugar using a glucometer she provided. According to participant evaluations this program was very successful.
A local dermatologist volunteered to do a free “Skin Screening Clinic” in June. He was assisted by his office nurse, a member of this ministry. Several people were identified as needing further evaluation and referral for those evaluations were made.
In August, two local optometrist conducted a program on “Eye Health” by measuring vision acuity and eye pressure.
September a Registered Dietitian, discussed “Basic Nutrition Facts” highlighted by a Power Point presentation. Specific topics of concern to the participants were also discussed.
The topic for our presentation in October was “Women’s Health”. A Nurse Practitioner combined information with demonstrations for the participants.
November the Parish Nurses hosted Bonne’s Bus to provide mammograms for women over 40 regardless of ability to pay. Also in November an infection control nurse presented information on immunization and infection control.
Through the members’ resourcefulness we have been able to contact qualified professionals to make presentations, workshops, seminars, and screenings, teach classes, and provide services that address the topics of interest of our parishioners. We have managed to address most of the topics identified in our survey. There is never a charge or fee for participation in any of our events or programs and refreshments, which are donated by the ministry members, are always provided.
We then opened our ministry to other health care professionals within our parish. Next we invited nurses and other health care professionals to join us from other parishes and faith based churches who had no ministry within their own congregation. We offer our assistance to any other church group who wants to develop a Parish Nurse Ministry. We continue to have other faiths represented in our ministry at IC making us truly ecumenical.
During this first year we realized we needed to do some fund raising to support our ministry. We secured a grant for a program on “Stress Management” but that didn’t cover everything. We needed to do more. We then discovered an opportunity provided by a local restaurant whereby they provided a free pancake breakfast and all we had to do was sell tickets and serve the food. This has become an annual event and a major fundraiser for our ministry.
Fundraising wasn’t the only thing we struggled with. We worked hard to provide quality events and programs but parish participation was not what we hoped. It was difficult for us that first year but we always remembered what father Casey said, “If you help just one person it’s worth it.” So we took a long deep collective breath and kept on going.