Parish Nursing: Ministry to Body, Mind, and Soul
By: Sherri Gragg, Photos by Sydnie Mares
Bob Atkinson leaned over the hospital bed where his wife lay cocooned in blankets. Maggie was slipping away, but taking care of Bob was a hard habit to break.
“Are you doing okay?” she asked him.
“Don’t you worry about me,” Bob said. “Linda is taking care of me.”
As a parish nurse, Linda Jenkins plays many different roles. She is an educator and an advocate. A health counselor and a liaison. A prayer warrior. A grief counselor. On this day, as she ministers to Bob and Maggie in the quiet of their home, she is all of those things.
Linda takes Maggie’s blood pressure, and gently applies balm to her chapped lips. She tells Bob to not worry about the insurance, that she will take care of it. Most of all, she walks alongside Bob as he says his long good-bye to his bride.
“Parish nursing is about body, mind, and spirit,” Jenkins said, “and it is bringing healthcare back into the church where there are no boundaries between those areas of care.”
As a forty-year veteran of the nursing profession, Jenkins is excited about the opportunity to not only provide healthcare, but to empower her community through education and advocacy as well. She believes education enables patients to be an active partner in their own healing, avoid recidivism, and better manage chronic conditions. Since parish nurses have the time to build relationships with their patients, they often find patients are much more receptive to their guidance.
As a healthcare advocate, Jenkins strives to help patients understand the complicated healthcare system so that they can gain access to the services they need.
Williams Memorial UMC Texarkana
Lenore Wyrick recently launched a Parish Nursing Program in her home church of Williams Memorial UMC Texarkana. The program kick-off event, January 8, 2018, focused on health education and screenings. Genesis Prime Care, a ministry that provides healthcare on a sliding scale for the uninsured, was present to help participants sign up for their program.
Wyrick will provide day to day ministry in Williams Memorial UMC’s Community Café. The Community Café is a gathering place where volunteers provide a wide range of ministries to the community including a food pantry, feeding ministry, and homework help.
“I am a firm believer that if you give people the knowledge to help themselves, they will be better off,” Wyrick said. “I feel like a lot of people get overwhelmed and feel powerless when they are diagnosed. I want to advocate for those people.”
Jenkins stresses that the Parish Nursing program is adaptable to congregations of every size. Although some churches might choose to employ a part-time parish nurse in a role similar to the one Jenkins fills, others could provide valuable resources to their community through health screenings and seminars in a way that is uniquely suited to their church.
Churches interested in beginning their own Parish Nursing Program should contact Kim Maybry at firstname.lastname@example.org