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Human Innovation: Faith Community Nurses

May 11, 2018 | By Lisa Schwenk
Published in: General, Nursing

nurse teaching citizen

Faith Community Nurses Reach Out to Provide Compassionate and Professional Care Throughout Augusta County

Sometimes innovation comes in the form of human connection.

Augusta County is the size of the state of Rhode Island, and its small communities stretch its width and breadth. Augusta Health's Community Health Needs Assessment indicated that the health concerns among the communities were similar, but fluctuated.

So how could Augusta Health reach out to these widespread communities, connect with them, and meet their health needs? The answer turned out not to be a high tech social media app. The answer turned out to be nurses—Faith Community Nurses.

Augusta Health established the Faith Community Nurse Network and connected with faith communities throughout the region. Coordinated by Dana Breeding, BSN RN of Community Outreach, the network provides workshops, resources and support to volunteer Faith Community Nurses. Breeding also conducts, in partnership with Shenandoah University, a yearly Foundations of Faith Community Nursing course at Augusta Health.

"A Faith Community Nurse is not just a 'nurse in the church'," explains Breeding. "It's a specialty practice of professional nursing that focuses on the intentional care of the spirit. Faith Community Nurses promote whole-person health. They are registered nurses following a specific Scope and Standards of practice."

Augusta Health's network has grown to include 20 Faith Community Nurses in 14 faith communities in Staunton, Augusta County, Waynesboro and Highland County.

One of them is Heather Carter, BSN RN, Augusta Health's Clinical Nurse Leader in Endoscopy & Pain Management who is also the Faith Community Nurse at Fishersville Baptist Church. "I love being a nurse, I love God and I love people," says Carter, "so I was very excited by the opportunity to connect spirituality and healing together." – Heather Carter

Faith Community Nurses tailor their practices to the needs of their congregations. 'Younger' churches need parenting classes. Others need nutrition and fitness workshops. Because of her work in endoscopy, Carter educated about colonoscopies. Most importantly, the nurses get to know everyone in their faith community, connect with them personally and support them with care and resources.

"My church is smaller, so I do a lot of listening and visiting. I've gone in to meet people in the Emergency Department and I've gone along on doctors' appointments. I help with one-on-one spiritual care, too, praying with them about health concerns and coping with death or grieving" adds Carter. "I also work with our youth. Again listening, but also answering questions and providing education on topics they might not feel comfortable discussing with others."

Listening, connecting, teaching, supporting, just being there. Innovation is not always a technological breakthrough. Sometimes innovation comes in the form of human connection.