Growing Parish Nurse Programs Will Help Churches

( [email protected] ) Mar 06, 2004 11:44 AM EST

Clergy members and nurses working with church congregations assembled at breakfast set up by the Health Ministries Cooperative of the Inland Valley to discuss a vision of putting healthcare back into the hands of the church by developing parish nurse programs. All industry professionals met at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center on Friday.

"This is incredibly exciting," Lewis Tant, a licensed vocational nurse working at Brethren Hillcrest Homes in La Verne, who attended the networking breakfast. "It definitely has me hooked."

Tant, who volunteers his time as a parish nurse at Monte Vista Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Montclair, gained new insight to the different services nursing programs.

“It shows me we just scratched the surface," he said. He is training to become a registered nurse but he thought the information he received Friday is going to be invaluable as the program takes shape.

Why is it so important for health ministries serve the church when there are already hospitals?

Health ministries have “potential for so much”, according to Deborah Keasler, Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center's director of cardiac services as well as a member and facilitator for the cooperative. She described the “ultimate goal” for those working in the health ministries is to tend “to life's spiritual aspects as well as the physical health.”

"Before we had hospitals with all our technology it was churches who took care of the sick, the injured, the homeless," said Cathy Klose, a registered nurse and the health ministries coordinator at Methodist Hospital in Arcadia. She was a speaker at the breakfast.

Parish nurses have more responsibility than being "hands-on nurses", said Klose. They educate the members of the church with CPR courses or even offer counseling.

Religion and faith communities can serve as a means to pass on information and to cross religious and institutional barriers, said the Rev. Judy Roska, chaplain and supervisor of pastoral care at the hospital, who also helped set up the cooperative.

According to Keasler, the new partnership will benefit and be open to all faiths.

The hospital took a survey last year to determine the needs of various houses of religious worship and have used that information to devised a hospital schedule to include parish nurse training sessions on topics such as heart disease, diabetes, breast and prostate cancer, flu, and anger and stress management.

By working together, everyone will benefit.

"When we do have it up and running, we can do it right so it can benefit the congregation and the community," Tant said.

For additional information on the Health Ministries Cooperative of the Inland Valley, call (909) 865-9501, Ext. 2105.