Faith Community Nurse Career Overview

Nicole Galan, RN, MSN
Updated February 28, 2023
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    Faith community nurses, sometimes called parish nurses, hold registered nurse (RN) licenses and specialize in providing healthcare grounded in spiritual principles. Focusing on holistic health, these professionals work to prevent and reduce illnesses in a variety of faith-based communities and organizations.
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    how long to become

    job outlook

    job outlook7% growth from 2019-2029For Registered Nurses (RNs)

    average earning potential

    average earning potential$62,000-$66,000SOURCE: PayScale

    What Does a Faith Community Nurse Do?

    Nursing diploma, ADN, or BSN required
    certification optional

    Parish nurses assume a range of different roles, integrating faith and health in their practices. Their main responsibilities include the following:

    Primary Responsibilities

    • Providing education on health issues management, home self-care, and health maintenance
    • Counseling on integrating faith and healing
    • Referring clients to other specialists and resources
    • Advocating on behalf of individual clients and at the policy level
    • Developing spiritual support groups
    • Recommending improvements for physical and spiritual health and wellness

    Skills Learned

    • Knowledge of spiritual beliefs and practices
    • Personal spirituality
    • Organizational skills
    • Flexibility
    • Self motivation
    • Strong communication skills

    Credit: Mark Gibson / Corbis Documentary / Getty Images

    Where Do Faith Community Nurses Work?

    Faith community nurse jobs can be found in churches of all denominations, faith-based organizations, community service centers, social service agencies, and hospitals. See the list below for some of the duties of parish nurses in different settings.

    • minusParishes

      Nurses counsel parishioners with health concerns and other healthcare needs; visit patients in hospitals and care facilities; and coordinate volunteers to assist church members with meals, transportation, and visits.

    • minusCommunity Service Centers

      Nurses refer clients to healthcare resources; liaise among faith-based congregations, hospitals, and community partnerships; and educate clients about disease prevention and wellness maintenance.

    • minusHospitals

      Nurses collaborate with other multi-faith chaplains and healthcare staff; integrate spirituality into the healing process; and advocate for patients to care providers.

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    Why Become a Faith Community Nurse?

    Parish nurse jobs feature a number of benefits, but, as a relatively new specialty area, faith community nursing also carries drawbacks. The table below offers a few pros and cons to the role.

    Advantages to Becoming a Faith Community Nurse

    • check-circleOpportunity to work outside of hospitals and medical facilities in settings such as churches and other faith-based sites, community service centers, and clients’ homes
    • check-circleThe specialty’s holistic approach, which focuses on mental, physical, social, and spiritual well-being
    • check-circleJobs that offer autonomy to care for clients without significant oversight
    • check-circleInteresting and varied job duties, such as advocate, coordinator, counselor, and educator
    • check-circleRewarding work that helps people improve their health, spirituality, and wellness

    Disadvantages to Becoming a Faith Community Nurse

    • x-circleIrregular work hours that may include nights and weekends, along with long hours standing and walking
    • x-circlePotentially lower pay than that earned by other RNs
    • x-circleThe absence of traditional nursing duties, such as administering medications and conducting physical assessments
    • x-circleThe possibility of experiencing difficult and stressful situations with clients or patients and their family members, who may be scared, angry, or upset

    How to Become a Faith Community Nurse

    Earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).

    While an ADN qualifies graduates to become RNs, many employers prefer to hire BSN-holders or master of science in nursing (MSN) graduates.

    Pass the NCLEX-RN to receive RN licensure.

    Nursing program graduates study for and take the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN). A passing score provides eligibility to apply for RN licensure.

    Complete a faith community nursing course.

    Nurses seeking to focus on faith community nursing should enroll in a training course, such as foundations of faith in nursing, offered independently or as part of some BSN or MSN programs.

    Consider a Faith Community Nursing Certification.

    The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers certification in faith community nursing, which may enhance an RN’s marketability and expertise as a parish nurse.

    How Much Do Faith Community Nurses Make?

    PayScale reports an average base salary of $61,680 a year for parish nurses and $65,680 for faith community nurses. Salaries for faith community nurses are slightly under the median for all RNs, which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists as $73,300.

    Faith community nurses enter a growing job market; the BLS projects a 7% increase in RN employment from 2019-2029, which outpaces the average projected growth for all occupations. The demand for RNs stems from an aging U.S. population. RNs skilled in patient education should see a rise in opportunities, along with RNs who can provide home-based, outpatient, and residential care facility services, including in faith communities.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is faith-based nursing?

    The American Nurses Association defines faith-based or parish nursing as a nursing specialty area that focuses on intentional spiritual care within a process of preventing or minimizing illnesses and promoting holistic healthcare in a faith-based community. The specialization itself is relatively new but traces its roots to Christian healing ministries.

    Can faith community nurses prescribe medicine?

    Like other RNs, faith community nurses cannot prescribe medication. Depending on state laws, some MSN-level advanced practice registered nurses can write prescriptions. Prescribing medication does not typically fall within faith community nurses’ duties, but counseling clients on the importance of taking their medications falls within their roles as counselors and educators.

    What does a parish do?

    A parish is a jurisdictional designation in which a local community organizes around a church and pastor of any Christian denomination. Parishes offer the members of the congregation social events and activities, service projects and opportunities, and community connections, particularly in rural areas.

    What is the role of a faith community nurse?

    The role of a faith community nurse combines nursing practice and health ministry within a parish or faith community. Parish nursing includes several subroles such as advocate, educator, counselor, referral agent, and volunteer facilitator and coordinator. Faith community nurses help their clients focus on their health from a faith-based perspective.

    Resources for Faith Community Nurses

    • Westberg Institute for Faith Community Nursing

      Westberg Institute supports the professional practice of faith community nursing with an educational curriculum, a knowledge sharing platform, an annual symposium, a research network, publications, and events. Membership is not required to access the institutes resources, and its faith community nursing foundations course trains practitioners throughout the world.
    • Health Ministries Association

      Christian-based HMA educates healthcare professionals in rural areas worldwide and provides scholarships, health and spirituality workshops, networking resources and events, mentoring, and training. HMA offers membership to all healthcare practitioners along with a student membership for only $10 a year.
    • Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

      As part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Partnership Center builds and supports faith-based and community alliances with the goal of serving communities, families, and individuals in need. The center publishes a newsletter, offers grants, hosts webinars, and posts toolkits and fact sheets on such topics as vaccination confidence, mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the opioid epidemic.

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    Portrait of Nicole Galan, RN, MSN

    Nicole Galan, RN, MSN

    Nicole Galan is a registered nurse who earned a master’s degree in nursing education from Capella University and currently works as a full-time freelance writer. Throughout her nursing career, Galan worked in a general medical/surgical care unit and then in infertility care. She has also worked for over 13 years as a freelance writer specializing in consumer health sites and educational materials for nursing students.

    Galan is a paid member of our Healthcare Review Partner Network. Learn more about our review partners.

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