What is a Parish Nurse Program?


When Christianity began, the Church was a major influence in people’s lives, taking care of all of their spiritual, emotional and physical needs. Over the centuries, a division occurred. A person’s physical care became the responsibility of the medical community and their spiritual care was handled by the Church.
In recent years, however, there has been increasing awareness of the interrelationship between a person’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being, encompassed in the concept of “whole person health”. 
Having a qualified, registered nurse on the parish staff can enhance the Church’s efforts to integrate "whole person health" into its congregations. The nurse, trained in science and humanities, as well as community nursing, social psychology and pastoral care, can assist those in need of healing and can also convey the parish’s concern for its parishioners, especially in the area of health and wellness. 

The Role of the Parish Nurse

  • Health Educator: Using health screenings, discussion groups, classes, and other events to help the congregation recognize the interrelationship between mind, body and spirit. 
  • Health Counselor: Being available for personal consultations along with home, hospital and nursing home 
  • Facilitator/Organizer: Recruiting and coordinating volunteers and support groups within the congregation. 
  • Referral Source: Acting as a liaison to community and religious resources and services. 

When and Where Does a Parish Nurse Work

The Parish Nurse works on a part-time basis on a schedule that is convenient for the nurse and parish. A space is designated where the parish nurse may regularly work and meet with individuals to discuss their health needs confidentially. An area is typically designated to provide parishioners with resources that are easily accessible in the Church.

About the Valley Parish Nurse Program

The Valley Parish Nurse Program (VPN) is a community-based organization which uses a holistic approach to promote health and healing.
Parish nurses serve as coordinators between the clergy, parish and resources in the community, such as the hospital and other social service agencies. Through education, counseling, visitation, health screenings, referrals and advocacy, the parish nurse assists members of the parish community in leading healthy and happy lives. 
Modeled after a program developed in 1983 by Dr. Granger Westberg in Illinois, similar and successful programs currently operate across the United States. 
The Valley Parish Nurse Program was established in 1989 after extensive research and planning between Griffin Hospital in Derby, Catholic Family Services in Ansonia, and several area religious congregations. The program is currently funded by Griffin Hospital and acquired grants. 

Qualifications of a Parish Nurse 

  • Registered Nurse currently licensed in the State of Connecticut
  • Minimum of three years nursing experience
  • Knowledge of the sacramental and spiritual life of the church
  • Experience in teaching and health counseling 
  • Knowledge and practice of holistic health philosophy 
  • Ability to work with highly diverse types of individuals and groups 
  • Sincere, outgoing and empathetic
  • Self-motivator, requiring little or no supervision


For more access to health and wellness programs, please visit the Griffin Hospital Community Outreach & Valley Parish Nurse Program site by clicking here.





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