OUR FAITY COMMUNITY PARISH NURSE NETWORK Go to a broad historical perspective.
In 1997, Leona Bergstrom, Director of the Adult Day Center, heard about parish nursing and wondered if this might be something that would not only benefit the entire community but also St. Joseph Hospital. Following her instinct, she spent many hours exploring the concept and then wrote a proposal to the hospital outlining the benefits, risks, and purpose for such a program. Leona invited Carol Story, director of Puget Sound Parish Nurse Ministries to present the concept of parish nursing to members of the Whatcom County Faith Community. Faith leaders reacted positively and a broader proposal was submitted to the hospital and was subsequently approved!
The program officially began in September 1997 and was under the direction of the Spiritual Care Department of St. Joseph Hospital. The first coordinator of the program was Carol Story, MN, BSN, RN. Carol found acceptance, excitement and encouragement across the health community and Whatcom County. Visiting Faith Communities and local service agencies she shared the goals of health and wellness as well as the purpose of the program: to build a network of caring people across Whatcom County.
The first two basic Parish Nurse educational classes were offered in March and September 1998 with 15 health care workers in attendance. These nurses were from 6 different cities across Whatcom County and represented 6 different communities of faith.
Two additional classes were held in March and October 1999 with another 15 nurses completing the courses. Three additional Christian denominations were added to the existing network of faith communities.
Led by the coordinator, support groups were offered to the parish nurses. This was a time for continuing education, to share concerns, and to pray together. Each of the attendees were members of Puget Sound Parish Nurse Ministries, many attending annual Renewal Days in the Puget Sound.
Carol Story left the program in 2000 and Tisch Lynch RN BSN M Ed took over the helm. At this point the full time, PNC (Parish Nurse Coordinator) position became a half time position. Carol had hoped that since the program was well established it would continue to thrive with less coordinator hours. But, the program she had created was about to experience its most rapid growth.
Tisch, had attended the first PN (Parish Nurse) training offered at SJH and by now had served at Christ the Servant Lutheran Church in this role for several years. She successfully started a PN ministry at her church and that was largely due to the support from her pastor, Rev. Gary Grafwallner.
Serving as a Parish Nurse was an important prerequisite in being the PNC. Tisch was challenged and blessed by this new specialty of nursing that looked at the whole person, body, mind, spirit and relationships. This was a rewarding ministry for her. During her time as PNC, she continued to serve as a Parish Nurse at her church.
Weekly, the Spiritual Care team (to include PNC) met for planning programs, updates on hospital issues, and support. A close relationship was formed with the members of this dedicated team of caring and compassionate chaplains. Each supported the program by sharing their unique gifts.
The Parish Nurse office continued to be housed in SJH south campus business center but the Spiritual Care office was at the main campus. Tisch also enjoyed sharing ideas with the SJH Outreach coordinator, whose office was next door and who gave direction and support to the program.
Tisch, during her term, continued all the excellent programs that Carol Story had created and added a few of her own. A monthly meeting, called the Parish Nurse Coalition, was offered to all who completed the Basic Parish Nurse Program. Each month, a group of PN's and HM's (Health Minister's) came together for a two hour meeting that included a sharing time, an educational session, community updates as well as a focus on spiritual care. These meetings were well attended.
Two Parish Nurse trainings were offered yearly, and the SJH Basic Education class received acclaim from participants. Planning this forty-hour program was time intensive as yearly requirements changed from the National office. Our rich program was offered to prepare participants to develop ministries in their faith communities. By the time Tisch left, three and a half years later there were 75 Parish Nurse and Health Ministers in Whatcom and Skagit Counties.
During Tisch's tenure she visited churches and introduced this ministry to Pastors, church councils and interested health committees. She also participated with many faith communities as they blessed the ministry of their new Parish Nurse/Health Minister. Part of the role of the PNC was to offer guidance and help new PN's create programs in their church. Having site visits and being invited to Health Committee meetings allowed for this. Several key educational programs were developed through Adult Day Health and the SJH Health Education Center (HEC). These were provided at no cost.
Yearly for National Nurse Day, pictures and the history of Parish Nursing were displayed in the SJH cafeteria. Parish Nurses participated in celebrating the National Day of Prayer at SJH. Additionally, Tisch wrote articles for the SJH publication, the Bellingham Herald, and was a featured guest on a local radio show, to introduce the SJH Parish Nurse Program. These activities gave visibility about the Parish Nurse Program. Soon, the hospital and the SJH staff had begun to recognize this program, and appreciate the unique role of the Parish Nurse.
The St Luke's Foundation was very supportive of the program and awarded grants when requested for activities and equipment. This money allowed for a yearly retreat, Christmas banquet and recognition party that honored Parish Nurses and Health Ministers. The retreats were held in various locations.
Another special touch introduced by Tisch was the creation of a Commissioning Service after participants completed the PN basic education program. During this service the nurses and health ministers received surprise mail from those praying for them, a pin and a rose. This remains a meaningful ceremony and highlight for many Parish Nurses and Health Ministers.
When Tisch resigned, Cheryl Grambo took over as the Parish Nurse Coordinator for one year. During that time the local parish Nurses were buzzing with activity. They were recognized as one of the largest coalitions in the Northwest and were thriving in their congregations, ministering to the needs of many. They were also presented with new opportunities when St. Joseph Hospital was awarded a large grant through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pursuing Perfection Project was launched. Parish Nurses were given the opportunity to receive training in Diabetes Education through the Joplin Diabetes Center and then offer this education to their congregations. At the local level, this project brought Parish Nurses into the conversation as being part of the healthcare team. Their work was gaining both recognition and appreciationÉ.and people were getting excited about the possibilities and future of Parish Nursing.
The fourth PNC was Donna Gustin MN, RN, PN. Under her leadership a special Parish Nurse Resource Center was enlarged and located in a corner adjacent to the chaplains office on South Campus. An anonymous donation helped update and expand the Parish Nurse Library. A new strategic plan was developed with the help of the Parish Nurse Advisory Board which helped to broaden the scope of the Parish Nurse Coalition and enhance the role of the Parish Nurse. This was a time when administrative details and organizational records were updated and re-organized.
When Donna resigned in September 2008 leadership of St. Joseph Hospital asked Rev Dick Cathell, PhD., hospital chaplain to continue the oversight of the program and become Administrative Liason. Dick made several recommendations to hospital administration that were accepted. Part time positions were established for a Parish Nurse Education Coordinator and Jeanne Brotherton, M.Ed., RN, PN was hired. The second position was that of Parish Nurse Outreach Coordinator, and Dotty Marston, MN, RN, PN was selected.
On May 14, 2009 an official inaugural luncheon launched the new Health Ministries Network with the hospital president, CEO and Whatcom County administrator Pete Kremen in attendance. At this point in our history the Health Ministries Network included 83 Parish Nurses and Health Ministers, 18 community organizations 45 community congregations and 6 hospital departments providing special services to the community.
By the summer of 2009 a new role was added to the Faith Community Nurse (formerly Parish Nurse) program. The program now included Parish Nurse involvement with hospital patients upon discharge. The nurses were asked to make one visit prior to a patient's discharge, one visit after the discharge and two follow up phone calls. This new role allowed the community nurse program to move beyond the boundaries of their congregations.
Dick continued the many programs and added a few of his own touches. One of these was a website entitled HealthMinistriesNetwork.net. During this time, the Health Ministries Sundays were added. Health Ministries leadership and local Faith Community Nurses provided leadership in the various aspects of the worship hour to include not only the sermon, prayers and readings, but also a special prayer of dedication of the Parish Nurses of the congregation and presentation of hand made prayer shawls.
We would be remiss to not express our gratitude for the Faith Community Nurses, Health Ministers, Physicians and Chaplains who have contributed their time, finances and support to make this program the success it is.
Through our history there have been some shining stars. Special thanks to Sr. Judy Tralnes, Sr Agatha Aicher, Sr Mary Therese Bruening, Barry Meyer's, Jennifer Johnson ARNP, Mary Lynne Palmer RN, Bridget Carney PhD, Rev Randy Pries, Leona Bergstrom, Elaine Granger RN PN, Carol Story RN, Tisch Lynch RN, Cheryl Grambo RN, Donna Gustin RN, Charles Nelson, PhD., Chris Phillips, Ross Fewing and Dick Cathell, PhD