"I need you", said Lisa, a patient of cervical cancer, and the mother of three children, to Rocco, a registered nurse employed by the First Congregational Church in Hudson. Rocco accompanied her to the doctor's appointment, arranged volunteers to bring meals and take care of children thrice a week during her treatment. "I do not know what would I have done without you," said overwhelmed Lisa.
This particular care highlights the modus operandi of parish nurses. Parish nursing is a growing movement where nurses do not give first-hand care or shots but focus on prevention of illness and promotion of health. They treat the person as a 'whole' and take care of his/her mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. One might raise concerns about the intermingling of science with the faith and religion, but a growing body of research has acknowledged its wide-ranging benefits. By shifting the focus of nursing from primary hands-on care restricted to changing bandages and giving shots to a more holistic and comprehensive manner, this branch seems to extend the purview of nursing and promises better prospects in the health care in the long run.
Nursing is an ever evolving aspect with different aspects of care have emerged with time to impart an integrated attention to patients. Parish nursing, a relatively new health care delivery model, not only recommends curing the patients but also focuses on the entire caring approach. Parish nurses act as health educators, counselors, health advocates, and referral agents. They emphasize on a team ministry approach and take help of volunteers to integrate faith and health. This paper, having referred to the published literature, explores various facets of parish nursing and hypothesizes that this form of nursing is expected to be of great importance in the future. The author has also discussed various factors that are supposed to make this model a promising aspect of health care delivery.
Prima facie, the differentiating feature of parish nursing is that it conflates health with the faith. Their way of relieving the pain of the patients includes prayers, conducting Bible studies, reading devotions, and giving communions. At the surface level, it seems that their act involves fundamentalism, but a deeper evaluation highlights how parish nursing imparts a sense of completeness to the meaning of health and wellness. These nurses are instrumental in providing the support that people need to alter their lifestyle and habits affecting their health negatively.
Apparently, Parish nurses bridge the gulf between the science and the religion by adding the spiritual dimension to the health care. Technological strides in the last century had altered the focus of medicine from a care-oriented model to cure-oriented model. Nonetheless, physicians, in the last decade, have risen to the significance of balancing the cure with spiritual or compassionate care. While cure involves physical dimension only, care encompasses the whole person, i.e., physical, emotional, spiritual, and social. Compassionate or faith-based care makes nurses not the conveyors of information, but the partners who walk with patients and 'feel' their sufferings. With the modern world grappling with severe mental ailments, parish nursing seems specifically promising in healing the sufferings arising out of psychology and mind. Research studies also demonstrate a good scope of parish nursing in the future.
Spiritual dimensions and beliefs help the patients coping with illness, pain, and life stresses and ensure faster recovery. Spirituality is related to positive thinking and hope; the powers of which are immense in healing. While the benefits of Parish Nursing are visible from the perspective of physicians and health care professionals, it is also imperative to mention that the clients also view it as beneficial for individuals, church, and the community. Providing illness preventing education, helping others navigate the healthcare systems, imparting individual health counseling, and referring patients to agencies, organizations, and support services are some the things that will emerge as fundamentals of health care model that, more or less, relies on medication and technology-based treatments.
Parish nursing programs are likely to come out as powerful health care model because of their overt benefits to the society and community as a whole. By empowering individuals to realize their full potential and belief in self-care capacities, this model is expected to reduce health care costs and improve the health of the community, particularly the marginalized and the uninsured. Mayernik, Resick, and Mandock have dealt in detail how parish nurses offer their services to low-income group by connecting them with different organizations in creative ways. The interdisciplinary mobile health van services at food pantry locations provide an excellent health care delivery system to the vulnerable and the poor. The approach, thus, can be seen as a means to reduce health care disparities and push the world towards a more equitable space where the poor and the needy will also have access to health education and resources.
There are around 45 million people in the country (the United States) who do not have health insurance and access to culturally competent and continuous health care services. It has led to persistent disparities in health outcomes between poor and non-poor, and minorities and non-minorities. Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC) has envisioned a goal of 100 percent access to quality care with zero percent disparities for the nation. Sustainable partnerships are mandatory for this excellent goal. The Bureau has acknowledged the vitality of faith-based organizations and is committed to engaging them in fetching the goals of quality care and zero percent health disparity. This aspect is expected to give a big boost to parish nursing in the years to come.
Another potential reason that promises the rising significance of parish nursing relates to the changing demography and shrinking health care resources. Increasing population for elders and the growing middle class are already intensifying pressures on existing health care systems and they direly seek novel directions in the delivery of healthcare. The United Nations stated that the population of the world would increase by one billion by 2025. Of that, approximately 300 million will be aged 65 or above as life expectancy is on the rise across the globe. Rapidly increasing senior population demands innovations in service management and health care scenarios to deliver long-term care and management of diseases. Coupled with it is the increasing middle class, courtesy to rapid urbanization in developing nations. Access to comforts has already led to sedentary lifestyle changes that have perpetuated obesity, diabetes, and other undesirable health conditions. These world conditions pave the way for the penetration of community and faith-based health models where nurses also serve as a health educator and counselor.
Scholars aver that cooperative partnerships between faith-based and health care companies are a revolutionary concept. These partnerships are capable of bringing colossal changes in social, economic, and political landscapes. Faith-based organizations as parish nursing groups are trusted entities in many communities. Not only they deliver high-quality and patient-oriented care but are also considered as the drivers of spiritual refuge and renewal. Dr. Marilyn Gaston has articulated three approaches of BPHC to achieve health care goals. These are:
Enhanced access to preventive and primary care
Improved quality of care
Improved self-management of ailments
Partnership with Parish nursing programs will provide the organizations with a new set of options that support each of these approaches. The need is tremendous; accessibility problems are high in rural areas, and 25 percent population still reside in rural areas of the United States. With only 9 percent doctors practicing in these regions, partnering with parish nursing offers outstanding scope to improve access to quality health care.
Furthermore, parish nursing can reach to the lot that is not easily under the purview of traditional health care delivery models. For example, people employed in jobs might not have leaves and time to access health services. It might be a tough trade-off for them that parish nursing programs can handle by offering evening and weekend services.
Last but not the least, parish nursing is the model for the future because of the need for cultural competence in nursing. Faith Community Nurses take due stock of cultural practices of the patients and take it as an essential component in understanding how to respond effectively to support them in various phases of life. As part of their practice, they well comprehend that religious beliefs and transitions as marriage, divorce, birth, death, and illness affect the mental and spiritual health care. As the world is reeling under severe life tensions, a decline of health resources, high employment rates, high divorce rates, declining economy, challenging job roles leading to stress and anxiety, Faith community nursing will prove a valuable asset to various religious communities.
The discussion makes it clear that parish nursing has a significant role to play in coming years. The following table summarizes several reasons as to why it will emerge as an innovative model of delivering efficient health care.
Anaebere, A. K. (2013). Faith community nursing: supporting mental health during life transitions. Issues Ment Health Nurs , 337-339.
Bolework, C. A. (2009, Jan 0). What is parish nursing. Retrieved Jan 11, 2017, from nsna.org: http://www.nsna.org/Portals/0/Skins/NSNA/pdf/Imprint_Jan09_Feat_Lueders.pdf
National Center for Cultural Competence. (2001). Partnerships between health care and faith-based organizations. Retrieved Jan 10, 2017, from nccc.geogetown.edu: https://nccc.georgetown.edu/documents/faith.pdf
Puchalski, C. M. (2001). The role of spirituality in health care. Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings , 352-357.
PwC. (2005). Changing demographics demand health care reforms. Retrieved Jan 10, 2017, from pwc.com: http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/industries/healthcare/emerging-trends-pwc-healthcare/changing-demographics-healthcare-reform.html
Solari-Twadell, A. P. (2010). Parish nursing and community collaboration in women's health. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing , 204.