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How to Become a Parish Nurse: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a parish nurse. Learn about the job duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in faith-based community nursing. View article »

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  • 0:03 Should I Become a…
  • 1:03 Career Requirements
  • 1:54 Steps To Become a Parish Nurse

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Should I Become a Parish Nurse?

Parish nurses are licensed registered nurses who provide medical aid and advice to religious communities. Parish nurses also might be known as faith community nurses, health ministry nurses, or church nurses. Information from the International Parish Nurse Resource Center (IPNRC) notes that parish nurses take a different approach to medicine by combining health science with spiritual, holistic care.

Common duties for parish nurses include providing health information workshops to community members, leading religious-based support meetings, conducting basic medical check-ups, and providing recommendations for further treatment. Parish nurses can work as volunteers or receive payment for their services. Parish nurses might have to work in a variety of environments, though they are usually clean and well lit. These nursing professionals also might have to work long hours and could be prone to injury from bending, lifting, and being on their feet for long periods of time.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree preferred
Degree Field Nursing
Licensure State registered nurse license
Experience 3-5 years' nursing experience
Key Skills Familiar with and respectful of spiritual and cultural practices; knowledgeable about nursing practices and medications; able to refer patients to other medical professionals; good working knowledge of medical tools and equipment; able to communicate information clearly to patients and comfortable talking in front of crowds; able to work without supervision
Median Salary (2015) $67,490 (for registered nurses)

Sources: International Parish Nurse Resource Center, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Parish nurses typically have several years' experience in the field educating patients and providing support to physicians, direct clinical care to patients, and treatment to at-risk populations. People who work in this career are familiar with and respectful of people's spiritual and cultural practices. They're knowledgeable about nursing practices and medications and able to direct patients to other medical professionals as needed. Parish nurses have a good working knowledge of medical tools and equipment, and they're able to communicate information clearly to patients. Parish nurses are generally comfortable talking in front of crowds and working without supervision. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May 2015 that registered nurses, a group that includes parish nurses, earned a median salary of $67,490.

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Steps to Become a Parish Nurse

Becoming a parish nurse requires education, state licensing, and experience.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that people can become registered nurses by completing either a diploma or associate or bachelor's degree program, the IPNRC recommends that individuals who want to become parish nurses earn a bachelor's degree in nursing. Coursework in these degree programs might address the roles of health care professionals, nursing technology, health assessment, nursing management, community nursing tactics, and health care ethics. Most programs require students to complete supervised clinical or practicum hours, allowing students to perform basic nursing procedures on real patients.

Improve your job prospects: Complete clinicals in community nursing environments. Because parish nursing is a type of community nursing, nursing students might want to gain experience in different community settings. Some communities are established by socioeconomic factors, such as low-income families or the homeless population. Other communities might be organized by cultural practices, age, gender, family structure, mental health concerns, or environmental factors.

Step 2: Become a Licensed Registered Nurse

Each state has different licensing protocols for registered nurses, but the BLS indicates that all states require license applicants to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, also known as the NCLEX-RN. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), topics included in this exam might include basic care and comfort, safety and infection control, psychosocial integrity, risk reduction, pharmacological treatments, physiological adaptations, and health maintenance. Individuals will have to answer a minimum of 75 questions on this computerized exam, but NCSBN points out that some people might have to answer as many as 265 questions.

Maintain your nursing license. Registered nurses must renew their license in accordance with state laws. Some states, like Michigan and Indiana, only require license renewal applicants to complete paperwork and submit it to the appropriate parties. Other states might have additional license renewal requirements. For example, Delaware requires renewal applicants to show proof of completing 400-1,000 nursing hours within the previous 2-5 years. Delaware also requires applicants to complete continuing education courses as part of the renewal process.

Step 3: Gain General Nursing Experience

The IPNRC advises that registered nurses should have at least 3-5 years of general nursing experience prior to becoming parish nurses. The organization recommends that registered nurses gain plenty of clinical experience at hospitals. Registered nurses who want to become parish nurses also need a background in public health care education, patient counseling, and community nursing.

Step 4: Get Parish Nurse Training

After working in the nursing field for several years, the IPNRC suggests that professionals take parish nursing training courses. Some schools offer parish nursing electives. The IPNRC also has created several courses that can help registered nurses gain a better understanding of faith-based community nursing. For instance, a course in the foundations of faith community nursing teaches students about applying spirituality to medical treatments. This class also provides instruction on how to offer professional care to faith-based communities.

Here's one way to get ahead in this field: Learn about theology. Parish nurses don't have to be preachers or missionaries, but they do need to have an understanding of different religions. They also need to understand how spirituality mixes with culture and how religious beliefs affect health care decisions. Some of IPNRC's classes provide theology instruction, but individuals can also take classes related to religion and multiculturalism.

Step 5: Find Employment as a Parish Nurse

Although the term 'parish' often implies Christianity, many religions utilize faith community nurses. The important thing is for professionals to understand and respect the spiritual needs and practices of their communities, per the IPNRC. Registered nurses who are interested in becoming parish nurses can approach church leaders and discuss the possibility of providing medical and spiritual nursing services to members of the community. Some religious organizations also use job postings to attract parish nurse applicants.

Parish nurses are registered nurses who have completed a bachelor's degree program and hold state licensure. They have 3-5 years' experience in nursing, and they may have completed training courses in parish nursing.

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