Parish Nurses Offer Wholistic Approach to Health

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (RNS) -- Each Wednesday around 4 p.m., Eugenia Evansplaces a sign reading "Get Your Blood Pressure Checked" at the end of along table in the fellowship hall of First Baptist Church. She lays outa digital blood-pressure monitor and the chart she's using to track theweekly blood-pressure readings made on her fellow congregants.

Shortly, some of the church's many senior citizens begin to driftinto a fellowship hall made increasingly more welcoming by the aromasfrom a kitchen where cooks prepare the weekly meal for those attendingWednesday evening services.

Evans, a registered nurse, spends five hours each week working in anexperimental program she designed for her fellow First Baptist members.In addition to Wednesday blood-pressure checks, she will coordinatehealth-related programs for members and people in the community andserve as a resource for those needing referrals to other types of care.

She has been hired--though just for five hours each week--to bethe church's first parish nurse. In that role, said Evans, who hasworked at Huntsville Hospital for nearly two decades, she focuses on the whole person--physical, spiritual and emotional.


Parish nursing is not so much a set of skills as a concept. Programsare designed in different ways to meet the needs of individualcongregations and communities. But generally, parish nursing combines atraditional ministerial/counseling function with expertise in healthcare education, screening and referral skills.

And that suits Evans: "It's why I went into nursing--to ministerto people," she said.

The term "parish" is more often associated with the Roman Catholicfaith and is somewhat foreign to most evangelical Protestantcongregations.

"'Parish' is not a word that rolls right off a Baptist tongue,"Evans said. "But it makes people ask what it is."

Such questions serve a purpose, because Evans said the first step inthe program is interesting and educating the public--members andnonmembers--and finding out what individuals need. At First Baptist,she's using a survey to do that.

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Yvonne Betowt
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