How Can I Become a Parish Nurse?

Explore the career requirements to become a parish nurse. Get the facts about the job responsibilities, training, and licensure to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Parish Nurse?

A parish nurse is a licensed nurse who works in religious communities. Their focus is on combining medical care and faith to treat the health needs of members of that community. They help provide patients with information about their health and health-related issues. They may help people from the faith-based community access health care resources or other faith-based resources. They work with people who lead support groups to teach them about health-related issues, and they don't just focus on physical healing in their healthcare practices. They are also concerned with mental and spiritual healing.

Degree Required Associates or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Nursing
Key Skills Critical thinking skills, compassion, physical stamina, detail oriented
Licensure Required Licensure required in all states
Job Growth (2014-2024) 16% for all registered nurses*
Average Salary (2015) $71,000 for all registered nurses*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Parish Nurse Do?

Parish nurses provide care for the whole person: physical, spiritual and emotional. While the term 'parish nurse' is most common, 'faith community nurse' is also used. As part of the health care ministry of your parish, you will work with the leadership of your faith community to determine what parishioners need. You might work as an unpaid volunteer or paid staff member.

As a parish nurse, you may direct a care team that serves parishioners by providing meals, rides to doctor appointments, medical care referrals or prayer services. You may also perform basic health assessments and organize support groups. Your life should reflect spiritual maturity as understood by the community you serve, since you will be sharing that faith with those to whom you minister.

Get Licensed

In order to serve in this capacity, you must be a licensed, registered nurse in the state in which you work. Licensure requirements usually include completion of a 2-year associate's program or a 4-year bachelor's program in nursing. In these programs, you'll study health assessment techniques, community nursing and mental health; you'll also participate in clinical practicums. After earning a degree, you have to take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (RNs) to become licensed.

There is currently no nationwide certification for aspiring parish nurses. However, parish nursing is a specialty recognized by some professional organizations, such as the American Nursing Association.

Pursue Specialized Training

A few colleges and nursing schools offer training courses in faith community nursing. Completion of these courses can lead to continuing education credit or college credit. Prerequisites usually include current RN licensure or enrollment in an undergraduate nursing program. You might study topics like:

  • The history of healing in Scripture
  • Hospice and palliative care
  • Assessment of parish needs
  • Legal and ethical issues
  • Health advocacy
  • Promotion of healthy lifestyles

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Pastors and healthcare social workers are professionals with career similarities to parish nurses. Pastors, like parish nurses, are also concerned about the spiritual wellbeing of their parishioners. They minister to the needs of their congregation. They may provide counseling or help their church members access support groups or resources they need for specific issues, such as healthcare problems. They need a bachelor's degree to work in their field. Healthcare social workers are professionals who work with those diagnosed with an illness, or their family members. They provide support and can help these individuals prepare for life adjustments that may be needed due to the illness, or find resources that they need because of the illness. Healthcare social workers need to have a bachelor's or master's degree in social work.

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