What Is A Parish Nurse?
If you feel called to be a parish nurse you will find that for the majority of your time you will be working with the members of your own specific congregation. Generally speaking parish nurses provide more spiritual care than medical care, but they are also trained to provide any medical assistance that may be required from time to time. Because parish nurses enter the field out of a sense of passion or duty they are often unpaid or paid very little.
Nature Of The Work/Duties
Parish nurses do not primarily provide medical care to their patients. Instead they act as health educators, personal health counselors, volunteer coordinators, health support group facilitators, and general health resources. The exact roles and duties that a parish nurse is required to perform are not strictly defined and will depend largely on the needs of his or her parish. One characteristic of the job role is that a parish nurse focuses on the whole person, not merely their physical well being, and focuses on their spirituality and how this affects their health. The exact approach a parish nurse will take depends on the beliefs and viewpoints of the parish for which she works. Consequently a true understanding and faith in the beliefs of your church will be required.
- Are employed by their church
- Are employed by their synagogue
Consequently the employment field that you will have access to as a parish nurse will be fairly narrow. You will be restricted to the religious setting in which you have faith and you will also be limited in terms of what you can and cannot do, on the basis that you can only function from the religious viewpoint of your parish. Nurses employed in this area, however, chose to be there and see it as a calling. If you are not entirely sure about being a parish nurse, it may be better to work as a general nurse until you have made up your mind. You can either train to specifically become the parish nurse for your congregation, or you can search for an opening in another congregation.
Parish Nurse Requirements
There are a number of requirements that you have to meet to be a parish nurse:
- You need an RN qualification from an accredited school as well as an RN license
- You need to complete additional parish nurse courses
- You need to have a minimum of two years experience working as an RN (although many ministries prefer that you have 3 – 5 years of experience); experience can be gained by working in hospitals, nursing homes, doctor’s offices, and other medical facilities.
- You need to share the beliefs of the congregation
When it comes to parish nursing, the last item on the list of requirements may well be the most important. Without a true belief in what you are doing, you will not be able to do the job effectively.
There is always a personality component involved when discussing requirements for a position. In the case of parish nursing they are as follows:
- You need to truly believe in the ministry as taught by your chosen parish
- In addition to believing the ministries taught, you must have a clear understanding of them and a willingness to learn about these beliefs
- Leadership skills will be required as you may be placed in charge of organizing community endeavors and so on
- A belief in a bridge between personal health and spiritual health is essential
- As in all nursing jobs, being a good and empathic listener is essential
- You must be someone who makes others feel as though they can trust you at all times
There are a number of educational requirements you will need to meet before you can be a parish nurse. To start off with, you must have a registered nursing qualification in the form of an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN). It is usually better to earn a bachelor’s degree. After earning your degree, passing the NCLEX-RN, the national licensing exam for RNs, will allow you to become a fully licensed RN. At least 2 years of experience is then required, but some parishes require more. 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.
The only license which you officially have to hold in order to be a parish nurse is an RN license. This is obtained by applying to your state board of nursing once you have completed your RN training. If your state board of nursing confirms your eligibility to become licensed, you can apply to write the licensing exam with Pearson VUE. Once you have received and submitted all the necessary paperwork, write the exam. Your official results will be sent to your state board of nursing. Patience is required while you wait. Your state board will license you if you pass. This license must be renewed periodically, often with proof that you have completed continuing education requirements as well as gained a certain amount of contact hours.
How To Become A Parish Nurse
Training, Advancement And Other Qualifications
The main training requirements in becoming a parish nurse are gaining the number of years of experience that your potential employers want you to have in a traditional health care setting, such as a hospital, and completing an educational program approved by the International Parish Nurse Resource Center to earn certification in your specialty. To maintain your license as an RN you will most likely be required to complete a certain number of continuing education training hours on a regular basis. In order to boost your skills as a parish nurse you could do continuing education units related to your discipline. These are sometimes offered by the same programs and schools that offer the initial parish nurse course that you have to take to become a specialist in this particular domain of the nursing profession.
Source An Accredited Education Program
It is extremely important that you select a training program that is approved by the International Parish Nurse Resource Center. If it is not accredited in this way you may struggle finding a job as a parish nurse. To source an accredited program:
- Contact the International Parish Nurse Resource Center and find out which accredited programs there are in your particular part of the country. They are guaranteed to be able to provide you with this information.
- If you know any nurses who are currently working as parish nurses, ask them about the accredited programs they considered and attended when they were deciding to do their training.
If you attend a non-accredited program you run the risk of wasting your time and your money and taking longer to reach your career goals.
Earn Your Associate’s Degree
Earning your associate’s degree is an important first step in becoming a parish nurse as it is a stepping stone to achieving the advanced degree required:
- Make a list of schools in your state offering associate’s degrees in nursing
- Think about what criteria you would like the school to meet
- Create a shortlist of the best options
- Apply to at least three different programs and wait to hear back – this increases your chances of being accepted into an associate’s degree program
- Remember that different schools have different application requirements
- Work and study hard to complete the program
Completing the associate’s degree program successfully will earn you the associate’s degree you need to be an RN, the first step in becoming a parish nurse for your own or another congregation.
Obtain Your Licensure
The only license required to becoming a parish nurse is an RN license, which has already been discussed in detail in this article. At present there are no additional licenses required by parish nurses. In addition there is no official certification required either, although there are efforts underway to amend this situation and introduce standardized certification procedures and qualifications as well as 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. At present this is not necessary, but parish nurses should keep themselves up to date with these efforts and be sure to obtain certification the moment it becomes a compulsory requirements for all parish nurses. Even if it is not made compulsory, it will most likely still be useful.
Online/Distance Education Programs
Although your initial RN training program cannot be completed entirely online due to the large concentration of hands-on work required, you can complete your parish nurse training online. Your parish nurse training can be done online. These online courses comprise of four main components, namely the Spirituality Component, the Professionalism Component, the Holistic Health Component, and the Community Component. Online study is convenient because:
- It allows you to work at your own pace
- It does not tie you down to a classroom schedule
- It is often a cheaper option to choose when looking at education choices
- You will be able to study from the comfort of your own home after hours and in your free time
- You will be able to complete the course more quickly
In general the job outlook for nurses is extremely good overall. Increases in technology and an ever increasing population means that there will always be a large number of people who need medical care from trained professionals. Parish nursing, although it does not deal directly with what could be termed as ‘mainstream’ nursing, is also positively affected by this outcome. In general the job outlook for parish nurses is good. In addition, as parish nurses are required to undergo the same basic training as all other nurses, and as they are required to get a certain amount of experience before working as a parish nurse, you will also be able to find employment in general healthcare settings where no specialization is needed as well as in a religious setting. Parish nurses can see to the spiritual aspect of their patients’ health in any setting.
Although parish nurses are an essential part of the congregation, about 65 percent of faith community or parish nurses are unpaid. Even in cases where the parish nurse is paid, it is usually at a far lower rate than a nurse in a hospital. This is because a parish nurse is there to serve her congregation, regardless of what the implications are. In many churches, systems are set up whereby a number of different people will contribute to the salary of a single parish nurse. This is cheap for everyone, and it means that the parish nurse will always be available to help anyone who makes a contribution. Nurses who enter parish nursing do not do it for the money. A different attitude is needed in order to make a success of this career.
The important thing to keep in mind about being a parish nurse is that you should decide on this career path because it is a calling and because you feel that it is a way to act on your religious beliefs. If you plan to become a parish nurse for any other reason, close examination of your motives may be in order to determine whether or not you are on the right path. Parish nurses are always needed, and if you are willing to fill that need and provide care to those who share your beliefs, this is the right course of action for you to take.