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Parish Nurse Ministry

What Does a Parish Nurse Do?

Christine Ramseyer describes some of her many roles at Mount Zion


After a very full first year as Mount Zion’s Parish Nurse, Christine Ramseyer is just as thrilled with her caregiving ministry as she was in April 2016 when she was still getting to know us.


When she sat down for a few moments during one of the Health Council’s recent Wednesday cafés, she reflected that her experiences over the past 12 months have been ones of learning, affirmation and a growing network of connections with our diverse congregation.


“One thing I knew from doing research before I applied here was that parish nursing duties can be quite different from church to church,” she explained. “A lot of how you spend your time and energy depends on the ages and needs of the congregation, as well as the church's goals.”


Although more and more churches these days have full- or part-time parish nurses on staff, one of the commonest questions is still “What do you do?” The short answer is; many things.


Perhaps the most visible aspect of Christine’s ministry at Mount Zion is its education component. Nearly every issue of The Mountaineer over the past year has included her informative articles on health-related topics, ranging from grief management to ‘flu shots. Another outlet for keeping us abreast of important self-care issues has been the twice-monthly Mount Zion Cafés, where the Health Council distributes handouts on current concerns and Christine is on hand to explain details or answer questions.


Behind the scenes, an important part of Christine’s work involves one-on-one care. She regularly visits ill or shut-in members in hospital, long-term care facilities and retirement homes, as well as accompanying people to important medical visits. Being a trusted and completely confidential “second pair of ears” for elderly patients visiting medical specialists helps ensure that they fully understand their conditions and treatments. “Often I’m able to ask questions about things I know will be important to them,” she said.


As well as keeping in touch with members who’d otherwise be isolated by conditions that restrict their mobility or activity, Christine is always ready to respond to urgent situations where there’s a need to connect someone with appropriate medical or therapeutic resources.


Facilitating the right connection at the right time, while protecting an individual’s privacy and dignity, can greatly improve the odds of a positive outcome, no matter what the problem is. “Our health care system has a great deal to offer,” she explained, “but it can also be very difficult to navigate, especially for people who may never have had a major crisis and suddenly need help.”


Once connections are made with the community resources people need, she follows up to see how they’re doing. “But one thing we always keep in mind as parish nurses is that we aren’t here to duplicate or replace existing services … it’s much more a ministry of making connections and being supportive.”


That support sometimes happens in very quiet moments, at healing stations during Sunday worship when Christine and members of the Health Council are prayerfully present for those who feel a need for comfort and assurance, regardless of the reason.   


If there’s anything she’d like people to associate with what she does as a parish nurse, it’s that no need is too small or insignificant to be worthy of help, or simply an understanding ear.


“People have said to me that they don’t want to be a bother, or that they know of others who are in greater need … but this ministry is for everyone. No one should hesitate when they need some help, because that’s what I’m here for.”


You can contact Nurse Christine anytime by through the church office.


-- Pauline Finch from The Mountaineer

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