Parish Nurse/Faith Community Nursing

Parish NursingBody. Mind. Spirit. These three words are the focus and intent for a faith-based community nurse. Registered nurses with a desire to work for religious or faith-based communities may want to consider becoming a parish nurse. If you are inclined and attracted to practicing your nursing skills to address the health concerns of a religious community or neighborhood, then this career is for you. A registered nurse with a service-oriented mind will enjoy this rewarding career. Their work is concentrated on prevention and guidance rather than direct clinical services to communicants.

The emergence of different communities and parishes spark the need for care from a "wholistic" nurse, such as a parish nurse. Parish nurses are gaining popularity as coordinators for community services. The direct connection provides physical, spiritual, social, and emotional care leading to healthy faith-based relationships and healing. They interact with individuals and make certain they are receiving the quality care warranted. It is crucial that parish nurses possess the ability to connect and analyze the demands or requirements of the religious group they are serving.

Simply, the parish nurse cares for the health of the congregation or parish where she or he is assigned. Parish nurses are held to a high standard and autonomously take the responsibility to act as a patient advocate. A multitude of activities exist for a parish nurse to participate in.  

The following are examples of activities:

  • Educational workshops for different health conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer prevention, bone health, dental health, and even depression.
  • Different free clinics, such as flu shot clinic and blood drives.
  • Conducting support groups for depressed, obese, or stressed individuals.

Parish nurse qualities and characteristics include:

  • Understand the nursing scope and standards of practice.
  • Good communicator and motivator.
  • Superb supervisory and organization skills.
  • Knowledgeable in conducting physical assessments.
  • Able to follow the Nursing process thoroughly: Assessment, Diagnosis, Outcome Identification, Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation.
  • Familiar with community resources.
  • Up-to-date with the latest developments related to nursing and health.
  • Willing to work with religious-based communities or groups.
  • Able to respect and share the faith of the group she or he is working with.

Education Requirements

If you are planning to become a parish nurse you need to obtain a higher degree. You may possess a diploma, an associate’s, bachelor’s, or even a master’s degree. After earning your degree you will need to pass the licensure examination known as National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). Each state has a Board of Nursing overseeing the administration of the exam. After passing the exam you can work in the field that suits your personality. In this case, when you choose to become a parish nurse, you should exhibit your understanding of what the position entails. It is just as important to carry a deep understanding of the individuals in the religious community you wish to work with. Often, new graduates need to gain experience by working as a community nurse.

A specific certification exam does not exist to specialize as a parish nurse, but parishes and congregations may prefer a nurse with additional training specifically in parish nursing. Novice nurses may not pack the knowledge of the theological facets of health, wellness, and healing in relation to particular congregations. 

Job Description & Duties

A parish nurse has copious responsibilities, including the obligation to build health and maintain the well-being of the religious community.

Responsibilities may include the following:

  • Advisor - parish nurses may acquire the duty of becoming an advisor of health.
  • Educator - as an, educator, they are responsible in educating people with different ailments - helps the parish prevent disease and unhealthy conditions.
  • Patient Advocates - a parish nurse has the responsibility to become a proponent for the parish community.
  • Coordinators - obligated to coordinate with other health officials.
  • Counselor - parish nurses act as counselors to ensure a holistic approach is sustained.
  • Facilitators - facilitates different health-related activities.
  • Organizer - organizes different free clinics, health programs, and screenings.
  • Surveyor - survey individuals for any health needs and interests.

Job Outlook and Salary

The salary of a parish nurse varies depending on several factors, such as experience and location. Parish nurses with more experience in the health care setting will have an advantage concerning larger earnings. The median salary of parish nurses is around $42,000. In some cases, parish nurses choose to work as volunteer nurses to serve their religious community. A study conducted by Albany New York University revealed 90% of the parish nurse participants work as a volunteer, while only 10% disclosed receiving pay.

The decision to work and study parish nursing is more about aiding others than the salary attached. The job outlook for parish nursing can be determined by what your motive is. Improving the quality of life of the congregation is definitely a satisfying outcome. 


Written by

Sarah Gehrke MSN, RN

Sarah Gehrke, RN, MSN, has 15 years of professional experience in infusion services. She specializes in providing intravenous (I.V.) nutritional therapy by administering [...]