Cooperative partnerships between faith-based organizations and health care are a revolutionary concept. In most communities, faith-based organizations and nursing are highly trusted entities. This is mainly because they provide renewal and spiritual refuge. Furthermore, they serve as powerful propellers for political, social and economic change. In a similar manner, community-based health care organizations offer high-quality medical care that is patient sensitive alongside other enabling services so as to diverse needy populations. Collaboration between faith-based nursing and community nursing has slowly evolved even though the two share many commonalities. Faith monograph developed by the Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC) as well as its faith partnership initiative and the National Center for Cultural Competence for Cultural Competence for the Health Resources and Services (HRSA) addresses different issues that surround collaboration and partnership between these two cultures (NCCC, 2001).
Faith community nursing or healing practice is also known as congregational or parish nursing. The nurses and the practice are guided by the Faith Community Nursing Scope and Standards of Practice published by the American Nurses Association (ANA) irrespective of the name used by different faith communities to identify nurses who serve on their ministry staff. ANA is the officially recognized professional organization for nurses in the United States. This association sets universal standard for professional performance and nursing care common to all nurses engaged in clinical practice (Standards of Clinical Nursing Practice). Based on generic standards, the American Nurses Association identifies specialty nursing practice through recognizing that particular specialty and demarcating its unique scope and standards of practice. The Faith Community Nursing Scope and Standards of Practice were developed from the generic standards in collaboration with the Health Ministries Association Inc. adopted and later officially recognized by the ANA in 1998 ("Interfaith Health & Wellness Association", 2016).
Faith Community Nursing (FNC) practice is considered as an independent practice of professional nursing. It is clearly defined by state jurisdiction’s nursing practice act and concentrates on health promotion within the context of the beliefs, values and faith practices of the clients (faith community, individual or family). Based on the standards and scope of Parish Nursing Practice, faith-based nurses maintain standards of care as demonstrated by the nursing process i.e. planning (outcomes), diagnosis, assessment, evaluation and implementation to all members of the faith as well as the overall community. The nurse is expected to practice according to the set standards of professional performance that describe competencies in various behaviors within the parish nurse role including; Education, quality of care, ethics, research, performance appraisal, resource utilization, collaboration, and collegiality. Together, the professional practice and standard of care define faith-based nursing practice.
Partnerships between health care organizations and faith-based organizations are a viable strategy to achieve a vision (healthy individuals in healthy communities) where everyone benefits. The faith partnership initiative provides innovation, leadership, and resources to expand the scope of the safety net for the nation’s communities. Benefits of community nurses forming partnerships with faith-based communities and parish nurses can be subdivided into; benefits to those served, benefits to the health centers, and benefits to the community. Benefits to those served include among others the following;
i. The collaboration leads to improved health outcomes because the services delivered in contexts build trust that leads to consistent follow – up. The bond between nurses, therefore, combines efforts to achieve better results hence leads to healthier and happier individuals in the society.
ii. It contributes significantly to providing health care providers or nurses who clearly understand interactions between the health issues of people and their constraints based on spiritual and religious beliefs, practices and values
The whole community benefits when faith-based nurses and community nurses collaborate. These benefits include;
i. Leads to improved health of community members. This implies that fewer people in the community will fall victims of chronic conditions that result from inappropriate prevention or treatment.
ii. Leads to the purchase of goods and services, which is an economic reciprocation within communities that comes from health care related jobs created.
The benefit of these partnerships to community-based health care organizations includes being able to effectively achieve their mission of offering support and services that lead to better clinical outcomes and increased access to the community served by various means.
Nurses have a variety of roles in as parish nurses in faith communities. These include;
i. Health advocate – Here they are supposed to encourage all systems including primary health resources and the faith community to find the best solutions for wholeness and healing in body, mind, and spirit.
ii. Health educator – They are required to focus on various educational activities for all ages in the community that explore the relationship between faith, health, values, lifestyle and attitude.
iii. Referral Agent- They should provide community and congregational resources for healing and wellness.
iv. Integrator of health and faith – They have a role in promoting the understanding of the relationship between health and faith in all contacts and activities.
v. Personal health counselor – This includes assisting individuals to deal with health problems and issues whether at nursing homes, hospitals or even homes.
Other specified roles include developing support groups and facilitating volunteers.
Collaborating with existing as well as developing community health services is an objective of Healthy People 2020. Healthy people is a United States government initiative aimed at improving the nation’s health. Many of the church-based health programs benefits stem from their presence and credibility with neighborhoods and individuals. Some of these advantages include integrated personal relationships within the community, trust within the neighborhood, commitment and desire to help those in need, established leadership within the community, and experience directly serving those in need. All these are useful in implementing initiatives of Healthy people (Michalene & Maria, 2014).
Ethical issues that affect parish nursing include:
• Conflict of values surrounding termination of treatment decisions, end of life decisions and deciding who should be proxy decision makers.
• Justice and equality including development outreach to homeless individuals in the community, access to healthcare system, treatment of people with HIV/AIDS and treatment of trans-gendered or gay parishioners
• Protecting values which include; protecting parishioner confidentiality, protecting parishioners from having their good will consumed by others, understanding assisted reproduction practices of families, teenage pregnancy in the parish, and balancing ‘doing bad’ versus ‘doing good’ to parishioners.
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