Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 3, 1999
CWL promotes parish nursing
By WCR Staff
The Catholic Women's League sees a need for parish nurses in the Edmonton Archdiocese.
So at the CWL's 77th annual convention here April 24, delegates passed a resolution encouraging CWL's councils in the archdiocese to explore the parish nursing ministry and its possible implementation in their parishes.
St. Anthony's Parish in Edmonton is the only parish in the archdiocese with a parish nurse. A dozen local parish nurses are employed by other denominations.
Helen Russell, a member of St. Mary's CWL in Red Deer and a critical care nurse, introduced the resolution on parish nursing to the almost 230 delegates at the convention.
She said the major goal of parish nursing is to promote health and wellness in Canadian churches. "A parish nurse treats the people she or he sees in a holistic manner, addressing the body, mind and soul. Her approach to health is preventative and encourages an optimal level of wellness."
A parish nurse functions as a health counsellor, a health educator, a referral agent, an advocate, a facilitator of volunteers and an interpreter of the relationship between faith and health, she said. A parish nurse plays the dual role of medical professional and spiritual minister to people facing illness.
"A parish nurse within a community of faith can help people help themselves, exposing them more and more to the inter-relatedness between faith and health, wellness and prevention," Russell said.
She said the parish is the ideal place for a nurse to be in, especially now that the Alberta government is calling for community-based health care.
"There has been a close relationship between medicine and religion for thousands of years. Now the Church has to reclaim its healing ministry."
Archbishop Joseph MacNeil supports the parish nursing ministry concept, although he is concerned about funding. In a recent letter to Russell he said the major obstacle to setting up the ministry is funding.
"Few parishes can provide the funding," the archbishop noted.
"It seems to me that this ministry could be a very appropriate shared project between parishioners and the government with the parishioners supplying the volunteers and possibly needed space while the government provides the funding."
Betty Fraser, a Red Deer parish nurse who addressed the convention, said parish nurses make $18 to $20 an hour. She suggested parishes hire a nurse on a part-time basis, 10 to 15 hours per week, or share a nurse with other parishes.
Fraser also reminded delegates they can have an intern work in their parish for free for nine months.
Parish nursing has a long history in Europe, Australia and New Zealand but it is a recent development in North America. It took off in the United States in the 1980s and moved to Canada about five years ago.
Russell said the ideal parish nurse would have strong roots in the Catholic faith, a bachelor of science in nursing and some experience in community nursing.
Most parish nurses currently working in Edmonton are graduates of a six-week parish nursing course offered by the University of Alberta's faculty of nursing.