My pastor at the time asked me if I would be interested in taking the course to become the FCN at our church, so I took the Foundations course in 2006 in Fargo. I have been serving at Oxlip Evangelical Free Church since 2009. Oxlip is a church in rural Isanti county. Our congregation is about 140 people, with a variety of ages, including several intergenerational families.
I am involved with faith community nursing in several different ways. As the FCN at Oxlip, I have focused on health promotion and prevention, such as monthly blood pressure screenings, Matter of Balance classes, which were co-taught with an FCN from another church, church newsletters and bulletin boards focusing on health education (Pre-Covid). Other activities at church included home and hospital visits, trying to collaborate with the care team for discharge planning or home service referrals and emergency response planning at our church (we created an emergency protocol flip book). Outside of my role at church, I also have presented about FCN several times to nursing students who are in their community nursing course at a local community college. I am involved in faith community nursing in Ukraine and am partnered with an American missionary nurse there who is the FCN coordinator for Ukraine. She and I wrote an article about faith community nursing in Ukraine for the Journal of Christian Nursing, which was published in 2019. I am also involved with the European Parish Nurse Network and have attended their conferences in 2016 and 2018. I recently joined Faith Community Nurse International (FCNI) and serve on the education and practice committees. I feel this helps me in my FCN role as the Director of FCN at Cassia.
The Cassia FCN Network began in 2009, with the hiring of their fist FCN Coordinator, Mary VanDerWerf, when the organization was still Elim Care. Prior to this, Elim had begun to explore ways to develop faith community nurse ministries within EFCA churches in Minnesota. The Cassia FCN Network developed a new mission statement in 2020, which is, “To intentionally develop and support faith community nurses of the North Central District”. We do this through providing pertinent, evidence-based information and educational opportunities in newsletters, emails and with FaceBook. We also submit a monthly health related article to the North Central District of the EFCA , geared for the general public. This provides health education to people, as well as familiarizes them to FCN ministries. The Cassia FCN program also is present at denominational clergy conferences to network with pastors and church leadership and provide them with information about faith community nursing. We also collaborate with the other FCN networks in Minnesota (such as FCNN) to share information with each other and to reduce duplicating educational opportunities.
The Cassia FCN program was able to offer COVID vaccines to several FCNs within our Network, in order to get these FCNs back to being able to see clients in person. We are thankful to Cassia for giving us this opportunity during their COVID vaccination clinics they held earlier this year.
I believe that most, if not all FCN programs have been affected by COVID. FCNs in the Cassia Network have described major changes to their FCN programs in their churches, including not being able to visit people, instead conducting visits via phone or video calls. Many of them have focused their time on assuring that at-risk, isolated people had healthy food and their medications. They have also helped people to find ways to stay connected with others, including reading Scripture with them over the phone and sending notes of encouragement. Health promotion classes, such as Stepping On, Matter of Balance or support groups have been halted which means the FCNs have found new and creative ways to encourage people to exercise and stay healthy.
Some of the biggest challenges during COVID that I have heard from FCNs are not being able to visit clients, trying to sift through the huge amount of COVID information to determine what was accurate, and having the information and restrictions change frequently. Other challenges they reported were feelings of division within faith communities and trying to remain neutral when there were many political and personal views on COVID. FCNs also stated that they have missed not being able to have in-person seminars and missing each other.
What I have found to be most helpful to my practice during COVID is technology. While we all have experienced “ZOOM Fatigue”, I feel that these video calls and video seminars has helped FCNs to stay connected and to be able to attend seminars and earn CEUs when all in-person courses and events had been cancelled. I was even able to renew my CPR requirements over ZOOM! Prior to COVID, the Cassia FCN Network met monthly in person. Due to COVID, we needed to switch to video gatherings each month. What has surprised me is that we typically have more people attending via ZOOM than we did in person. We have had several FCNs attend from outside of the Twin Cities, and even FCNs from other states. They have said that they could never attend in person, but like that they can participate due to the technology. Personally, I have had my faith needs met through other FCNs and specific Spiritual Care seminars conducted on video calls. I also conducted a weekly Advent series in December 2020 via Zoom to provide Spiritual Care for FCNs who were not able to attend church in person. I have attended the monthly faith-based partner calls with the Minnesota Department of Health via video conference. These have been very helpful to hear directly from State leaders what the current regulations are and the reasons behind them. This helps me to disseminate current and accurate information to FCNs and others.
I feel so blessed that God has called me to faith community nursing. It fits my personality and my desire to provide whole person care to people, including spiritual care. I have always wanted to teach the Foundations course but did not have my Master’s degree, which is required to be a lead educator for the course. Dee Huanca has been a friend and mentor to me for several years, and she encouraged me to go back to school to get my Master’s. Thanks to her encouragement and prayers, I enrolled in school at Bethel in 2017 and received my MSN Nurse Educator degree in November 2020. My Capstone project looked at the factors that affect the sustainability of FCN programs. There is a fair amount of current research and literature about FCN practice and programs. However, there is very limited research regarding sustainability factors of FCN programs. While there are many factors that affect program sustainability, such as time, finances and availability of resources, the primary factor that affected the success of FCN programs was clergy support. This was indicated throughout a majority of the literature that I researched. It was an eye opener to me, and leads me to explore ways that FCNs can increase clergy support for this vital ministry. I am thankful that I am able to work at a job I love and that I work together with so many gifted FCNs throughout the Twin Cities and beyond. I am happy to be able to serve on the FCNN Board and to collaborate with FCN networks to promote faith community nursing in our communities.