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Nursing Excellence

The Online Newsletter for Children's Nurses
e-Edition, Issue 10 

Sally Flores

Intentional Care of the Spirit -
A Nurse's Gift to Her Community

By Sally Flores, MA, BSN, RN, FCN

Nurses have multiple talents on the job and off. They might sing in their church choir, raise a unique breed of dog, or take amazing photographs for art shows. All nurses have gifts, talents and things they are passionate about. If explored and developed, these interests can support balance and wholeness in their lives. By sharing their gifts and talents with the community, nurses move beyond hospital and clinic walls to support and encourage healthy living in others, and positively affect their own health. Being involved in the community can be very fulfilling. To be healthy we need to be connected to other people.

“Health is a matter of wholeness and not perfection.” ~ Robert Raines

Health has everything to do with relationships. Our health and the health of others depend on how we relate to our family and friends, our community and ourselves. When we engage others and intentionally connect with them there is a purpose and hope in the future that encourages wholeness on life’s journey. Nurses can be a part of this healthy lifestyle by being involved in health ministry as a faith community nurse.

Many are not familiar with the health ministry concept. It is about promoting health and wellness in a faith community. Health ministry supports and assists those who are sick as well as those who are often on the margins of society.1 Health ministry tends to the whole person by healing body, mind and spirit. It is not about helping others but about serving others and meeting them where they are in life.

Health Ministry/Parish Nursing was started in the 1980s in the Midwestern part of the country by Reverend Granger E. Westberg, who was a Lutheran clergyman, a parish pastor, a hospital chaplain, a professor of practical theology and a teacher of medical students.

His work was based on his belief that medicine transcends the physical because true healing involves the body, the soul and the mind… One of Granger Westberg's most significant contributions to the church and the community at large is the founding of the Parish Nurse Movement. Dr. Westberg originally envisioned parish nursing as a partnership between healthcare systems and congregations – to link resources of the healthcare system to the faith community.”2

Many faiths and cultures understand the interrelationship between body, mind and spirit and the sanctity of human life.3 Nurses are valuable resources and needed in all diverse communities of faith and culture to help make the connection between health and faith.

Faith community nurses, also called parish nurses, are licensed, registered nurses who practice holistic health for self, individuals and the community using nursing knowledge combined with spiritual care. They function in paid and unpaid positions as members of the pastoral team in a variety of religious faiths, cultures and countries. The focus of their work is on the intentional care of the spirit by assisting the members of the faith community to maintain and/or regain wholeness in body, mind, and spirit.4 Their practice is governed by the nurse practice act of their state, Faith Community Nursing: Scope and Standards, and the Code of Ethics with Interpretive Statements for Nurses. Faith community nurses function as an advocate, educator, health counselor and minister of spiritual care through prayer and ritual. They collaborate with church and community professionals, serve as volunteer coordinators and as resources wellgrounded in their faith. Nurses interested in this specialized practice can attend a basic training developed from the curriculum established by the International Parish Nurse Resource Center (IPNRC). The IPNRC serves as the main national association that supports, trains and provides ongoing education for faith community nurses as well as for the health ministry groups they serve.

There are many different ways faith community nurses teach and engage others in health and healing. For example, bulletin articles that define the health-faith connection can give people a short explanation of what it means to be healthy and encourage them to explore further reflection. Articles that focus on health and healing, illness and suffering, wholeness and hope, and on the caregiver’s role, develop a new view of the spiritual side of health. This kind of information can be valuable to nurses as well as other healthcare professionals in understanding health and wholeness as they relate to our role in the spiritual care of our patients.

Faith community nurses have been involved in health ministry programs such as health fairs, cancer prevention screenings, community exercise programs, and public health education, including flu prevention and hand hygiene. During disaster preparedness forums a spiritual care kit, similar to a first aid kit, helps encourage people to consider being prepared spiritually when a disaster hits or trauma occurs. The kit contains items of personal importance that give spiritual comfort, like a picture of family or a loved one, a keepsake or memento that reminds them of a special person or time. It is meant to be a comfort in dark times offering hope and peace. The kit can be assembled with children through expressive art. During these health promotion events, faith community nurses bring attention to the wholeness of health through body, mind and spirit, and their care is focused intentionally on the spiritual wellbeing of each person they meet.

With a servant’s attitude, nurses discover a new perspective to their own views of health and healing and how to care for others. Developing this new perspective provides comfort and hope instead of suffering and despair. Nurses who attend to their own balance of body, mind and spirit may wish to share their gifts to help make the health-faith connection in the community by serving as a parish nurse. 


1 Flores, Sally. Catechesis for health and healing: A preparation for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. MA Thesis. HNU. 2011

2 International Parish Nurse resource Center. (2011). “About Rev Westberg”. Retrieved from on November 11, 2011. “About”, para.1)

3 Westberg-McNamara, J. (2006). Health and wellness: What your faith community can do. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press.

4 American Nurses Association. (2005). Faith community nursing: Scope and standards of practice. Silver Springs, MD:


In This Issue

Becoming The BEST

Evidence, Research and Quality Improvement in Clinical Practices

Intentional Care of the Spirit - A Nurse's Gift to Her Community

A Nursing Career - Challenges in Care for Ourselves

Nephrology and Peritoneal Dialysis Clinical Nursing: What Goes On In Here?

Surviving Childhood Cancer

Necessity is the Mother of Re-Invention

Patient Satisfaction Comments