PARISH NURSES: Provide Spiritual, Physical Healing
Friday's Sacramento Bee examined the community health contributions of parish nurses in nine Sacramento-area congregations. Among other services, parish nurses make home and hospital visits, educate parish members in preventative care, serve as a resource to accessing care and act as a liaison between patients and doctors. Most positions are part-time and staffed by volunteers, but "several churches have established paid staff positions." The occupation has flourished in recent years; there are now 200 congregations offering the service in Northern and Central California and some 3,000 nationwide. About 30 parish nurse preparatory programs operate nationally.
Mind, Body, Spirit
Many advocates see the parish nurses as agents for breaking down the barriers between spiritual and physical therapy. Karen Shelnutt, parish nurse at the Federated Church in Placerville, said, "When you work in secular organizations getting federal money, you can't use prayer as part of your interventions. With the church, you can use prayer, and sometimes that makes all the difference in situations that look hopeless." Rev. Timothy Little, director of chaplaincy services at UC Davis Medical Center, said, "The more we pay attention to the whole person, the better medicine we are able to do." Rev. Susan Hamilton, the pastor at Parkside Community Church, added, "The ancient temples and religions were holistic in nature. People came to the temples for education, healing and spiritual guidance and direction. The Western world splintered them off. It's time to bring them back together" (Clegg, 1/16).