Nursing for the Mind, Body and Spirit

While you might go to church to hear a sermon, listen to the choir or talk to friends, you can get even more at 56 congregations in North Texas.

At these congregations, which represent Christian churches as well as Muslim mosques, more than 80 faith community nurses assist community members with health needs — providing everything from flu shots and guest speakers to home visits and programs about chronic disease management.

“Health is more than physical — it involves the body, mind and spirit, and they all interact with one another,” says Caryn Paulos, M.S.N.,  R.N.-B.C., director of Faith Community Nursing and Patient Education for Texas Health Resources. “The practice of faith community nursing focuses on the intentional care of the spirit, allowing us to help patients focus on wholeness and wellness before, during and after disease.”

Creating a Foundation

Texas Health Resources’ Faith Community Nursing program started in 2002, and since that time, scores of nurses from North Texas have turned to the health system for the training, materials and support they need in order to provide care to their congregation. During the week-long Foundations in Faith Community Nursing course — provided by Texas Health Resources — nurses learn about the specialty of faith community nursing and receive continuing education credit. They can then share their specialty nursing practice with their congregations.

“We provide the training, resources and mentorship for faith community nursing, but how the program is organized in their church is up to the nurse and the church leadership,” Paulos says. “Primarily, though, the nurse is there to answer questions, teach and then potentially refer the church member for additional care.”

Because this program is a mission project for Texas Health, churches aren’t charged for services provided by Texas Health Resources’ Faith Community Nursing program.

Reaching Out to the Community

Some churches with faith community nurses offer blood pressure screenings at the church, provide group education centered around desired topics such as breast or heart health, or hold office hours for minor health issues. Others might offer programs such as A Matter of Balance  — a fall prevention program — or CPR and first-aid classes. According to Paulos, free flu vaccinations are one of the most popular programs offered by faith community nurses, and she says close to 2,000 flu vaccinations were given in churches in 2014.

“Our goal is to keep people healthy and out of the hospital, so we connect the nurses to resources and then let them decide what they need to offer based on the needs of their congregation,” Paulos says. “We support the churches, but the program is all their own.”

Texas Health invites every faith community in North Texas to be part of the Faith Community Nursing program. To find out how a nurse in your congregation can become involved with the program, visit TexasHealth.org/FaithCommunityNursing.

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