Parish Nursing in the English District

Sue Neff, Parish Nurse

Hello and greetings!

My name is Susan Neff and I serve as the district representative for Parish Nursing in the LCMS – English District. For those of you who are not familiar with Parish Nursing, I’d like to give you an overview what I do, and share some benefits of having a parish nurse in your congregation.

The modern Parish Nurse movement began the 1970s when a hospital chaplain, Dr. Granger Westberg, saw the need for whole-person care: physical, emotional, and spiritual; for persons who were in the hospital. If we are not attending to the whole person, and one aspect is out of balance, our whole-person wellness will suffer.

Dr. Westberg saw nurses who were spiritually mature as fulfilling the role of Parish Nurse.

The Parish Nurse fulfills four general roles: Health Educator, Personal Health Counselor, Volunteer facilitator, and Liaison with the community. Each ministry will be specific in its job description based on the demographics of the congregation, i.e., a large elderly population, a preschool or day school, a military population, etc.

It has been said that Parish Nurses have one foot in medicine and one foot in theology.  Not only can we understand a patient’s medical condition (and sometimes be the liaison between doctor and patient), but we can offer spiritual support and prayer with and for the person as well. The Parish Nurse ministry is a complementary ministry in the church. The nurse works with the pastor to assure that those who have needs are being seen. One powerful example of a complementary ministry is for the pastor and Parish Nurse to visit a seriously ill person together. If the Lord’s Supper can be taken, the pastor can do that, and if the person has medical procedures, tests, and equipment present, the nurse can help the family understand the process.

Earlier I stated that whole-person health is important for persons in hospitals; however this is an important concept for all of us. As your Parish Nurse, I would rather help you to stay well. To that end, it is important to educate our members on prevention, including a healthy diet, adequate exercise, screening tests, the risks of smoking, drinking, and drugs, etc.

To qualify as a Parish Nurse you must hold an active Registered Nurse license in the state where you practice and be certificated – or working towards a certificate – as a Parish Nurse.

There are several organizations that offer educational courses to get your certificate. There are also several conference opportunities each year that are wonderful places to network, share and learn.

Please feel free to contact me for any information:

Sue Neff, RN Parish Nurse

District Representative for Parish Nursing, LCMS-English District

(619) 444-7444 (work)