The Faith Community Nurse Network is launching a series of FCN Spotlights to lift up these amazing nurses and the ways they care for our communities. For those who are less familiar with this nursing specialty, these posts will help to answer questions like “What is faith community nursing?”, “Who are faith community nurses?”, and “What all do FCNs do?”. We hope these stories will also help faith community nurses feel connected with their colleagues. For the first installment, Jill Stewart generously shared about her work as an FCN and how her practice has changed during COVID.
I was invited to apply for the parish nurse position that opened up when our parish nurse retired. Parish nursing allows me to incorporate all of my experience (hospital, home care, public health, school and occupational health nursing) into one practice. I find that being able to use faith- my own and my client’s- helps people cope, improves quality of life, and builds resilience.
I serve Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St Paul Minnesota, and was blessed to step into an established parish nursing role. Gloria Dei is my church home. I grew up in the congregation and at first I was concerned that working in the church would “wreck church” for me, but the opposite has happened- my work has strengthened my faith and added a new dimension to my spiritual life. A big plus, my coworkers are very supportive of the nurse’s role, which hasn’t been the case in every setting where I have worked.
My role brings me into contact with every part of church life. I am part of the pastoral care team. I work with our Care Teams (Grief Support, Post-hospital, Knitters and Quilters, Mental Health Ministry, Hope in Recovery etc). I team with Kids Ministry and Youth Ministry when the need arises. I did a hand washing unit with the preschool that is onsite. I like to plan a health promotion activity for all-church events such as the program year kickoff. We had exercise classes and CPR/First Aid training (prior to CoVid). I connect people to resources, like vision loss/State Services for the Blind, community and county helpers, and coordinate blood drives with the Red Cross. I can help people develop health directives. I try to be a good listener. I do health promotion and coaching. My role is to be a sounding board sometimes as people process decisions they need to make, and to reinforce directions from providers.
Since CoVid-19, much has changed. I have been working remotely for a year and the classes have been online or on hiatus. The Fall programming kickoff didn’t happen this year. I have relied on phone and online meetings, sending notes and cards to keep in touch with people. I have worked hard to stay informed as practice and recommendations changed so that the congregation and staff could be as safe as possible when in the building and meeting families for weddings, funerals and baptisms; occupational health has been a larger proportion of my job since the pandemic began. I have relied on regular updates from the state and county health departments and from occupational health nursing (OSHA, AAOHN). I have followed CIDRAP, Johns Hopkins and WHO guidance. I found the FCNN parish nursing webinars and Zoom meetings to be helpful as a way to stay connected and trade ideas with other FCNs.
This winter I introduced a winter wellness challenge for the Epiphany season. We called it iMAGIne Winter Wellness. There was a topic every week (sleep, nutrition, service, gratitude, prayer/meditation, exercise, adaptation/resilience) and activities to do at home. We also had our first blood drive with a bloodmobile because the building was closed.
Our worship moved online. I have found online worship to be vibrant and much more intimate than I would have expected. While some people have adapted well to online church life, others are feeling stressed, angry, lonely and isolated. As we prepare to return to the building, I expect that some people will rejoice and others will wonder if it is really safe or feel unsure about whether they are ready to be singing in a packed sanctuary. People will have to manage their personal risks.