Promote health ministry


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

You’ve returned home from surgery with a long list of after-care instructions and multiple prescriptions. You’re exhausted, a little foggy from the medicine, and that leads to some confusion about whether or when you took your last pill as prescribed. Your hospital stay was shortened because of the health care industry’s emphasis on cost savings. Plus, increased specialty practices require improved coordination of care for patients and you have fewer local family support systems. It’s easy to see why people get readmitted to the hospital more frequently than before, says Jennifer Hildebrand, coordinator of Genesis Health Ministry Nursing Program.

Barb Arland-Fye Jennifer Hildebrand checked Catholic Messenger diocesan reporter Lindsay Steele’s blood pressure last month.
Barb Arland-Fye
Jennifer Hildebrand checked Catholic Messenger diocesan reporter Lindsay Steele’s blood pressure last month.

“Parish nurses can help navigate the system for people in their congregations and advocate for their needs,” observes Hildebrand, who is recruiting participants for next month’s Health Ministry Nursing Foundations in Faith Community Nursing Course. She thinks it’s time for more faith communities to commit to developing and promoting health ministry for the well-being of their parishioners.

The Faith Community Nursing Course prepares registered nurses and health ministers to develop and/or participate in the healing ministry of a faith community. Hildebrand encourages a variety of health care professionals to sign up. Registered nurses with a current license can practice as a parish nurse. Those who can serve as health ministers include retired nurses without an active license, licensed practical nurses (LPNs), social workers, allied health professionals, clergy, chaplains and lay persons interested in serving the faith community. “Everyone has their gifts,” says Hildebrand, an RN, who leads the Health Ministry Cabinet at Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire.


“Parish nursing is a specialty practice and we do not provide any hands-on care,” she noted. Parish nurses will explain, find resources, provide a listening presence, pray with and for parishioners and organize health-related activities and educational seminars for the entire congregation.

Health ministers collaborate with parish nurses. “Every parish is going to look different in terms of health ministry. You address the needs of your people,” Hildebrand added.

“I thank God for allowing me the opportunity to be a parish nurse,” said Cathy Thennes of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf. “I can think of no better nursing specialty where you can share your faith so freely with those you help. It is a joy to come to work! I have the privilege of being able to work closely with the pastor to minister to the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of the parish members. “But they are not just parishioners, they are family and over the years you develop close relationships. As much as you hope to minister to someone each day and lighten their load, it is they who minister to you and lift you up more than you could ever imagine. I have grown tremendously in my faith life and I continue to be molded into the servant God calls me to be through all my experiences.”

Registered Nurse Carol Burns of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport was commissioned a parish nurse after completing the Foundations in Community Nursing Course in 2013. “I used to go to Mass and pray more privately before Mass. Now I find myself looking around the church to see how everyone is doing. … This one is limping, this one is back in church, this one has a cast on her arm, etc.,” Burns reflected.

“I’d love to challenge each parish that doesn’t have a parish nurse to send someone to the course. It will be the best $200 they’ll spend all year,” Hildebrand said.

Health Ministry Nursing Foundations in
Faith Community Nursing Course
When: Feb. 18, 19 and 20 and March 3, 4 and 5 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Genesis Medical Center-East Campus in Davenport.
Cost: $200 through Jan. 31 and $225 after that.
Content: In the first unit, participants will study topics such as health, healing and wholeness, spiritual care, prayer and self-care. Topics in the second unit include ethical issues, legal practices, beginning the ministry, communication and collaboration. The third unit’s topics include health promotion, behavioral health, family violence and loss, suffering and grief. The fourth unit will cover such topics as accessing resources, advocacy and care coordination.
Information: Contact Jennifer Hildebrand at or call (563) 421-5513 or (563) 370-4412.

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