Churches hiring nurses to aid parishioners
Nurses working with parishes to complement a pastor's spiritual counselling are meeting in Ottawa this week to encourage other churches to follow their example.
Parish nursing developed in Europe in the 1980s and spread to Canada in 1992 but remains a niche field with only a handful working in Ottawa.
Those advocating for more nurses affiliated with churches say it gives the church a chance to add a valuable service to someone who might not otherwise seek medical aid.
Trisha Elliott, minister at Carleton Memorial United Church, said her church hired Jeanette Rooney-Ozols as a part-time parish nurse to help provide more support for vulnerable members of the church, including many seniors.
"I think it's easy for people to slip through the cracks," said Elliott. "Jeanette's been able to make early referrals to doctors so that people are cared for properly and early. Literally I think it saves lives."
The church said it receives about $117,000 in donations over a year from parishoners, which funds the $20,000 program.
Parishioner Marg McFadyen, 83, said at first she was unsure about using church funds to hire a nurse but benefited after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"She takes the time and you don't feel rushed at all," said McFadyen. "Someone to talk to where you wouldn't talk to somebody else about things that were bothering you. She's our friend, we adore her."
Rooney-Ozols said last year she made 1,200 visits and phone calls and saw about 70 per cent of church members.
"I find it amazing when you give that kind of focus, you realize how much of a person is still there. It's not dementia, not a diagnosis or a label — it's really being in touch with the person," said Rooney-Ozols.
She is one of 60 parish nurses at the Canadian Association for Parish Nursing Ministry's four-day conference, which began Thursday and runs until Sunday.