HMA Today – Summer 2013

Paula White, BSN, RN, MSA, FCN, Parish Nurse
St Catherine of Siena Catholic Church, Portage MI 49024

One year ago the position I had held for eight years was eliminated. This was not a new experience, it was the fourth time in my long nursing career. The sad part was that I really, really enjoyed my work as a Faith Community Nursing Coordinator for a large hospital system. I loved being in the community, meeting with pastors and church leadership teams, teaching the Foundations of Faith Community Nursing curriculum and then mentoring nurses as they discerned their next steps and created new ministries. Because of Michigan’s tough economic times, congregations were realizing the need to address questions of mind-body health as well as spiritual health. Nurses were often willing to lend their unique talents and skills in the role of faith community nursing.

At the time I thought ‘oh well’, maybe it was time for me to spend more time with my husband and our kids and grand kids who are strewn across the country. Coupled with having my own health and aging problems, maybe it was time to step back and take better care of me!

Through the fall, I attended to each of these needs. By year’s end I was again restless, at loose ends. In my daily prayers I asked God for a sign that would lead me to my next step on this journey of life. I reminded him that I love nursing and am not ready to give it up! In my times of contemplation, I worked hard to empty myself to receive Gods messages. I listened daily for that still small voice and looked for God’s signs.

It was New Year’s Day when I got a call asking me to come help care for my father-in-law who had taken ill and was not bouncing back. We packed up and made the six hour trip. I had the privilege of caring for him in his last three weeks of life, calling upon family members to help me provide hospice care. After many years of administrative nursing, this was a most rewarding experience! It reaffirmed the fact that I am not ready to ‘retire’ from nursing. Looking back now, I can see God’s plan for me at work!

During the fall, a nurse graduate of the Foundations course had approached me asking for mentor ship and partnership to begin a Parish Nursing Ministry at our home parish. We met with the Steward of Care and Support and then the Pastor, both of whom enthusiastically endorsed the idea. We then spent two months meeting regularly to flesh out our ideas so as not to duplicate existing ministries or to bite off more than we could do. In the new year we met with the Stewards & Deacons, and with the Finance Council and Parish Council. By May we had our plan and approval to begin our ministry.

Since my partner/mentee is out of state for the summer, we quickly outlined the plan for the next few months until her return and I took the lead in beginning the ministry. It was great fun to put into place all those little steps involved behind the scenes in any ministry: getting and setting up an office, ordering business cards, office keys, supplies and name tags, and writing bulletin announcements.

The best part though was actually working once again as a Parish Nurse. The public ministry began with blood pressure screening in mid-July. Now we have a small caseload. Plans for a fall seminar on end of life choices are underway. Weekly office hours and monthly blood pressure screenings are now on my schedule. I am in my element as a Parish Nurse!

I may not know where the journey will lead next, but I do know that God has a plan for me! I just need to be patient and prayerful, trusting in God as that plan unfolds.