Nursing Spiritual Care

Why Is Faith-Based Nursing Important?


Whether visiting a person recently released from the hospital or organizing a grief support group, faith-based nurses uplift members of their communities. They provide a combination of healthcare and spiritual support that improves the health and overall well-being of the people they serve.

Faith-based nurses help patients prevent and confront medical issues and educate communities about healthy living. Faith-based nurses connect people to resources within the healthcare system, community, and congregation with the aim of addressing the needs of the whole person. People inspired by the chance to integrate faith and health can benefit from learning about faith-based nursing and its unique value.

What Is Faith-Based Nursing?

Faith-based nursing, also known as parish nursing or faith community nursing, takes a wholistic approach to promoting health and preventing disease, meaning it emphasizes the importance of addressing a person’s physical, emotional, spiritual, and social needs. This nursing specialty focuses on the intentional care of the spirit. For instance, faith-based nurses may share prayers with or offer spiritual counseling to the people they serve.

Faith-based nurses work in congregational and community settings, providing care to members in faith communities that supports wholeness in mind, body, and spirit.

Where Faith-Based Nurses Work

Some faith-based nurses work in traditional clinical environments, such as hospitals, where they collaborate with other healthcare professionals to incorporate spirituality into care delivery. The majority, however, work in specific community settings, such as churches or other houses of worship, where they:

  • Discuss health issues with community members and counsel them about their health concerns
  • Coordinate visits to patients in hospitals and long-term care facilities
  • Mobilize volunteers to help community members with meals, childcare, or transportation
  • Organize emotional and spiritual support groups on topics ranging from cancer survival to substance abuse
  • Arrange for on-site health-related activities, such as health screenings and informational sessions on disease prevention

Faith-based nurses also work in community service centers, where they may perform several duties, including:

  • Providing clients with referrals for healthcare resources and helping them navigate the healthcare system
  • Networking with other community organizations and faith-based congregations to collaborate on health outreach programs
  • Developing and delivering presentations on disease prevention
  • Educating clients one on one about healthy lifestyle practices

Faith-based nurses serve people of all ages and backgrounds. They champion healthcare justice with the belief that everyone deserves access to equitable and quality healthcare. Faith-based nurses often work with underserved communities who have limited access to reliable health, social, and other types of essential services. They frequently link people to medical services who would otherwise be disconnected from any healthcare system.

A Brief History of Faith-Based Nursing

While the tradition of nurses incorporating faith into their care practices has existed for centuries, the recognition of faith-based nursing as a specialty occurred more recently. In 1973, Lutheran pastor Granger Westberg opened a wholistic health center that brought together chaplains, clergy, and healthcare professionals in a community setting. The concept of faith-based nursing grew out of programs at this center. In the early 1980s, Westberg coined the term “parish nursing” and wrote that nurses had the potential to get conversations going between the medical and theological communities.

In 1985, Lutheran General Hospital sponsored the establishment of what later became known as the International Faith Community Nurse Resource Center. This center started providing faith-based nurse preparation, which played an important role in the specialty’s development.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) officially recognized faith-based nursing as a specialty in 1998. This came alongside the publication of the first Scope and Standards of Parish Nursing Practice, the authoritative book on faith-based nursing. Faith-based nursing has evolved since then to include many faith traditions.

With that evolution, the ANA and the Health Ministries Association have issued subsequent revised editions of the original book using a new title: Faith Community Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice. This volume lays out the values and priorities of faith-based nursing. It also outlines faith-based nursing practices and a framework for evaluating those practices.

The Benefits of Faith-Based Nursing

Combining faith and health offers many advantages when it comes to helping patients prevent and address medical issues. By focusing on an individual’s physical, mental, and spiritual needs, faith-based nursing expands the possibility of introducing interventions in many areas of a person’s life that can increase wellness. This also creates more opportunities to build people’s knowledge about effective ways to manage chronic conditions.

Other key benefits of faith-based nursing include:

Empowering People to Be Proactive About Health

Caring for one’s health requires a person to have the knowledge and means to do so. Health education plays an integral role in what faith-based nurses do. Whether visiting parochial schools to deliver presentations on nutrition and exercise or counseling older adults about fall prevention before they transition to their homes after a hospital stay, these nurses raise awareness regarding vital concepts related to wellness and healing.

As health advisors and educators, faith-based nurses regularly counsel individuals to actively take control of their health, while maintaining a strong respect for individuals’ personal and religious beliefs. By providing information about health risks for different diseases and conditions, such as diabetes or tooth decay, as well as guiding people in behaviors that can address those risks, faith-based nurses give individuals the tools they need to stay healthy or recover.

Improving Access to Healthcare and Health Resources

Faith-based nurses improve access to healthcare services and resources by working in the local community. This community presence gives people who might not otherwise interact with healthcare professionals the opportunity to ask questions about their health from someone with real expertise.

Often, people from low-income communities don’t have primary care providers due to limited funds or a lack of adequate health insurance. Because of this, they may not seek medical care when it’s needed or get screenings, vaccinations, and other preventive services.

However, because of their placement in familiar, trusted environments, faith-based nurses can not only help address the medical needs of these individuals but also link them to critical social supports.

For example, faith-based nurses may meet with individuals visiting a church-staffed soup kitchen and provide them with information about job training, subsidized housing, or other appropriate community resources that can boost well-being.

Faith-based nurses may also ask these individuals about their underlying health issues, if they have access to the medicine they need, or whether they require any medical attention for issues such as diabetes or blood pressure.

During such encounters, faith-based nurses may pray with people or discuss shared religious values.

Ultimately, faith-based nurses build greater awareness within faith communities about available health resources. This increases access to healthcare providers, resulting in less illness and better overall community health.

Supporting a Faith Community’s Access to Health Resources

Faith-based nurses collaborate with community leaders to create support networks. This might involve organizing mental health counseling, coordinating social services with local agencies, or bringing together community volunteers to participate in health fairs.

As an example, faith-based nurses may start a clothing drive at their synagogue for a local domestic violence shelter. They also may partner with a community mental health center to develop a program for teen suicide awareness.

Faith-based nurses also often rally members of a faith community to support families or individuals in the congregation in need. This cultivates a caring community, and it helps people struggling with chronic illnesses or terminal diagnoses.

For instance, faith-based nurses may organize members of their congregation to take turns preparing and delivering meals to a family with a parent receiving cancer treatment. Others may mobilize volunteers to help a family salvage items from their home after a tornado.

Additionally, faith-based nursing leverages the power of a faith community to influence its members in a positive way. It uses this influence to encourage and empower community members to make healthy lifestyle choices and practice health maintenance.

Promote Community Health Through Faith-Based Nursing

Faith-based nursing recognizes the importance of bringing hope and comfort to the sick through spiritual support combined with clinical expertise. Nurses in this specialization use the community setting to reach people from all backgrounds, and they use faith to bring people healing and wellness.

For existing nurses looking to advance their careers into roles such as faith-based nursing, AdventHealth University Online’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program prepares graduates to strengthen community health and well-being. The RN to BSN program is designed for registered nurses (RNs) with an associate degree who are looking to complete a BSN program while continuing to work, providing a fully online learning experience with flexible coursework options with the ability to graduate in just one year.

Recommended Readings

Registered Nurse Responsibilities
RN vs BSN: Understanding the Difference
What is Humanitarian Nursing?


American Nurses Association, Faith Community Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice, 3rd Edition
The Center for Faith and Community Health Transformation, Faith Community Nursing
CHI Health, “Becoming a Faith Community Nurse”, “Why Is Spiritual Maturity Important?”
Deaconess Nurse Ministry, “Benefits of Faith Community Nursing”
International Journal of Faith Community Nursing, “Faith Community Nursing in Community/Public Health Education: A Positive Student Nursing Experience”
Journal of Holistic Nursing, “Faith Community Nursing Practice and Holistic Nursing Practice: A Comprehensive and Inclusive Comparison of Both Specialties”
Southern Illinois Healthcare, Faith Community Nursing
Texas Health Resources, Faith Community Nursing and Health Promotion
Westberg Institute, Position Statement 2019: Faith Community Nursing Compared to Other Nursing Specialties
Westberg Institute, Position Statement 2019: Wholistic Health

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