Episcopal Diocese of Albany, NY
Business Office: 68 South Swan Street - Albany, NY 12210 - (518) 465-4737
Christ the King Spiritual Life Center: 575 Burton Road - Greenwich, NY 12834 - (518) 692-9550

The Albany Diocese Health Ministry

By Dcn. Micki Thomas, Education Coordinator

What is Parish Health Ministry? Why should we be involved?

Parish Health Ministry is the intentional integration of the practice of faith with the practice of nursing and/or good health so that people can achieve wholeness in, with and through the community of faith.

Public awareness of health and illness issues is at an all time high. The public is also becoming aware of the importance of prevention and wellness. Cutbacks in Medicare and Medicaid, together with higher deductibles and co-payments make illness prevention and wellness promotion real needs - not just idealistic goals. Many find commercial health and wellness programs to be both impersonal and expensive. Many others have found that a health ministry within their own church meets their needs in a more wholistic way.

The church has been intimately involved with the concepts of wholeness, wellness and healing since its inception. The idea of the unity of body, mind and spirit is deeply rooted in both the Old and New Testaments. Parish nursing/health ministry is a specific ministry within a congregation that gives these concepts and ideas a visible presence. The nurse/health minister works with the pastor and a wellness cabinet or other caring members to fulfill the healing mission of the church.

Parish nurse/health ministries grew out of the wholistic health care programs started by Granger E. Westberg, D.D. in the Chicago area in the early 1970s. The original model was supported in part by the Illinois Schools of Medicine and Divinity. Wholistic health care centers were established in area churches to deliver total family care. These centers ultimately closed for a variety of reasons. They were followed by a revision developed under the guidance of Lutheran General Hospital of Parkridge, Illinois, through its Congregational Health Partners program. This model established the Minister of Health/Parish Nurse roles much as we know them today. Parish nursing and congregational health ministries are now functioning all over the world. Schools of nursing include parish nursing concepts in both their undergraduate and graduate nursing programs.

In 1998, Parish Nursing was accepted as a specialty by the American Nurses' Association. The scope and standards by which we practice are revised every five years. The official membership organization for Parish Nurses is the Health Ministries Association (HMA).

What does Health Ministry offer?

Help in finding your way through the current health care system; assistance in obtaining community services; help with understanding a diagnosis; medication education; understanding an upcoming procedure; answering questions from new parents; blood pressure monitoring, etc.

What do I need to do to become a Parish Health Nurse/Health Minister?

Any person who has a desire to help people live a healthy, faith-filled life or has the desire to help those with health issues and in need of finding proper resources should consider taking the International Parish Nurse Resource Center's Basic 40 hour Preparatory Course. The course includes 20 modules that prepares each person to do Health Ministry within not only his/her church, but in the community as well. In order to be a Parish Health Nurse (aka Faith Community Nurse) you must be a Registered Nurse with a current, active license and have completed the 40 hour course. An LPN or a person interested in Health Ministry can become a Health Minister also by taking the Prep. Course. All 20 modules must be completed to receive the certificate.

Many parishes already have people doing Health Ministry and they don't realize that they are doing it. Also, each parish will have its own form of Parish Health Ministry designed for the particular needs/concerns of that Parish.

In this area, Parish Health Ministry is taking on an Ecumenical appeal, for which we are very thankful - we live and work within our communities where there are a variety of faiths. To arrange for a presentation or for any questions you might have, please contact Micki Thomas, Education Coordinator here.

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