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Jan 29, 2003

Calvin and Parish Nursing

Parish nursing is a 2,000-year-old tradition, partnering caregivers and churches in a relationship that seeks to heal body, mind and spirit. Its earliest roots are with the monks and nuns who provided care for the sick and caring for the children, the widowed and the poor during the early days of Christianity.

Although parish nursing waned for a time, as modern medicine took over caring for the sick, the tide has turned. Parish nursing is mounting a comeback. And the Calvin College department of nursing plans to lend a hand.

This fall it will offer a parish nurse basic preparation course so that registered nurses can integrate their faith and practice. The course will be certified by the International Parish Nurse Resource Center (IPNRC) and Calvin's Bethany Gordon, MSN, RN (above), will coordinate the 45-hour offering which will help nurses enhance the wellness of a congregation. She will lead an information session on the new course on February 20 at 7 p.m. in room 201 of the Calvin Science Building.

Says Gordon: "Interested nurses, pastors or church members are invited to attend and learn more about this ministry that promotes the health of all congregation members through health education and illness prevention."

Gordon says a parish or church nurse is a registered nurse who works with a specific congregation to help church members maintain and improve their quality of life. She adds that the functions of a parish nurse will vary according to the needs of the congregation, but that the various roles may include integrator of faith, health educator, health counselor, referral agent and facilitator of volunteers and support groups.

A parish nurse usually does not provide "hands on care" or duplicate services. Rather, the parish nurse partners with other health care providers and church staff in responding to health care concerns and empowering individuals to take a more active part in their health care management.

In 1997 parish nursing was designated by the American Nursing Association as a speciality practice. And although this fall's course is for registered nurses, not nursing students, Gordon says connections to parish nursing are a good fit for the new Calvin nursing curriculum and its traditional undergraduate students. At the core of the new Calvin program is this seemingly simple statement: "The Calvin College Department of Nursing, in sharing the mission of Calvin College, seeks to engage in professional nursing education that promotes lifelong Christian service within a caring and diverse educational community."

That idea of service has practical implications for the look of the program. One of the things that will be new to the Calvin program is an increased emphasis on community-based nursing.

While Calvin nursing students will still spend plenty of time in acute care settings such as hospitals, they also will be spending time in places such as factories, schools and malls. That's because a big part of the Calvin curriculum will be on health promotion and protection, serving people before they become ill. Calvin professors know that this is a significant trend in healthcare circles and they want the Calvin curriculum to be able to provide for that need.

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Contact Phil de Haan
616-957-6475 (v)
616-957-7069 (f)