Samaritan's Parish Nurse Program is a local adaptation of the international program that brings health screenings and wellness information to people through their faith-based congregations. Although the program is non-denominational, it utilizes the comfortable venues of people's churches and synagogues, as well as the venues of Samaritan hospitals, to offer health services.
In the Samaritan model, Samaritan hospitals underwrite the cost of Parish Nurse coordinators who work with dozens of local nurses to reach out to thousands of Oregon residents in Benton, Linn and Lincoln counties. Hospital coordinators meet regularly with nurses to provide training and other resources. Also, together with Samaritan's Chaplain Services Department, they work to assure that no patient is alone during a hospital stay or medical emergency.
Parish nurses offer many services and types of support typical of the international program, including:
- Taking blood pressure and/or glucose readings for congregation members before or after regularly-scheduled services;
- Counseling people with chronic disease or emotional problems; and
- Arranging medical appointments and transportation for people who may be uncomfortable accessing the medical system on their own.
In addition, the local program tailors its services to the needs of the hospital communities it serves by:
- Sponsoring local wellness fairs;
- Coordinating an annual training and recruiting seminar for parish nurses throughout the three-county region;
- Training volunteers in "healing presence," so they may sit at the bedside, or simply "be there" for people who are in a lot of pain or confusion, who are dying or who don't want to be alone;
- Helping immunize school children;
- Working with local health departments to disseminate information on flu epidemic and other potential disasters;
- Contributing to Samaritan hospitals' "healing environment" committees, which have facilitated the inclusion of in-house healing decor and landscapes, including soothing water features, pleasing natural-setting artworks, and the gentle strains of piano, harp and Native American flute music;
- Directing an active group of women who knit prayer shawls for anyone whose comments ("my faith sustains me," "please pray for me") suggest they might be comforted by a spiritual healing touch.
- Working in Lincoln County to set up classes to help parents initiate parent-teen conversations about sex and other teen behavioral concerns.
Parish nurses can form partnerships with physicians and integrated delivery networks that can improve the health status of individuals. As personal health counselors, they are in an ideal position to help clients enhance their chronic disease self-management skills and have the opportunity to support and teach clients during Parish Nurse office hours, or during home/hospital/nursing home visitations.
Parish Nurses provide continuity of care. As members of community teams, they develop relationships with clients and are able to work with clients' faith communities and primary health care resources to provide whatever is in the best interest of clients from a whole-person perspective.
Those who volunteer to serve as parish nurses often are retired nurses, many previously employed at Samaritan hospitals and physician clinics, who still have abundant skills and compassion for their fellow citizens and who embrace parish nursing as a satisfying path to their continued service to those in need. As for Samaritan Health Services…..it funds and promotes parish nursing as an effective way to extend health care beyond the walls of its hospitals and clinics. It's a way to reach populations that might otherwise be underserved by the medical community.
For more information about the Parish Nurse Program, call (541) 812-4114.