How parish nursing flourished in a rural community
In 2017 we reported on the hopes for a parish nursing scheme in St Goran and St Michael Caerhays. Within a year funding was secured and the region welcomed parish nurse, Sarah Male. The scheme has been a huge blessing to the community.
Parish nurses like Sarah are fully qualified registered nurses, but their role is not to replace clinical nurses, but to compliment them. It can be unsettling when dealing with a diagnosis as, wonderful as the NHS is, they are limited by time constraints. It’s also not always easy to ask or think of the right questions in the time allotted. Parish nurses are able to talk things through, de-mystify medical terminology and sign-post where to get more help.
Parish nurses care for the whole person
As Sarah says, “We care for the whole person, incorporating the physical, psychological and spiritual being to reach optimum health. We listen, talk, educate, advise and sign post. We visit people in their own homes, build up rapport and are not so limited by time. That makes it easier for people to talk, open up and develop a trusting and professional relationship.”
As a parish nurse, Sarah is welcomed by the local GP surgery. “I have a positive and therapeutic working relationship with them, which means I can discuss cases and help to get people the help they need quickly. Parish nursing is not just about direct care, it is about helping people to get the best help available and being available in their time of need.”
Parish nurses are there for everyone, regardless of faith, age, race or circumstance. Each area varies according to the need and demographic. In Goran and Caerhays parishes, many of the 1500 residents are elderly but the ministry of parish nursing embraces all areas of need. “It could talking through a hospital letter, or talking to GP’s about safeguarding concerns. Or sitting with someone in the last stages of life, knowing that you are in no hurry to leave. Or listening to a young mum who is struggling with sleepless nights, paying bills and trying to find herself through it all.”
“It could talking through a hospital letter, or talking to GP’s about safeguarding concerns. Or sitting with someone in the last stages of life, knowing that you are in no hurry to leave. Or listening to a young mum who is struggling with sleepless nights, paying bills and trying to find herself through it all.”
Parish nursing during a pandemic
Helping people to cope with the pandemic, lockdowns and escalating fear has been a big part of Sarah’s role over the last twelve months. “With so many isolated, I routinely called and visited where possible to help people to feel part of a community, to know that they are not alone. I spent a lot of time talking about the vaccines, helping to dispel the rumours around them. I also, when asked, talked to people about faith and God, praying with people in their last days of life.”
Looking back over her time, Sarah says, “It continues to be the greatest privilege, supporting our rural community, advising and caring for their psychological, spiritual and physical needs, particularly during lockdown. Having excellent relations with our GP surgery means I can liaise between healthcare providers and patients, as a professional, and fill in the gaps where others cannot. In a time of great difficulty, parish nursing has proved to be invaluable.”
We need more parish nurses
St Goran and St Michael Caerhays took a step of faith back in 2017. They were supported by the Diocese of Truro with a grant of £1,000 a year, but they also inspired their local community to fundraise and reached out to funders, raising £49,000. Their faith has been richly rewarded, and the community blessed. But Sarah remains the only parish nurse in Cornwall.
It would be wonderful if there were more Sarahs, either paid or voluntary. If your church would like more information please contact Sarah Male RN or John Woodbridge, Treasurer,St Goran Church, or have a look at the parish nursing website.
The video below also gives a good insight into parish nursing