Parish Nurse History
Interest in a Parish Nurse program began in October 1985, when Rev. Dr. Granger Westberg spoke about the ministry to a gathering at St. John's Lutheran Church in Rock Island, Illinois. By the fall of 1987, Faith Lutheran Church in Moline submitted a grant request to the Lutheran Hospital’s Health Care Foundation to develop their volunteer Parish Nurse position into a paid position. Seeing the potential for this program, the Foundation felt it would be more beneficial to develop and fund an institutionally based Parish Nurse program for several area churches.
On December 10, 1987, Rev. Dr. James Wylie and Ms. Ann Solari-Twadell of the Parish Nurse Resource Center at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois, presented a program on Parish Nursing. In attendance were representatives of the Lutheran Health Care Foundation and several local Lutheran pastors. It was decided to invite churches of all denominations to another program where the concept would be presented to the community at large. On February 15, 1988, approximately eight churches of the 50 attendees expressed interest in developing the program.
Between March 29, 1988 and February 22, 1989, monthly meetings were held to pursue program development in the Quad-Cities. Six churches were actively involved in the process: St. John's Lutheran, Rock Island; St. Paul's Lutheran, Orion; Salem Lutheran, Moline; Faith Lutheran, Moline; First Lutheran, Moline; and First United Methodist, Rock Island. By the fall of 1988, they selected registered nurses and began the first Parish Nurse Orientation Class.
The coordinators for the development of the Parish Nurse Program were Chaplain Sheila McGrath and Harriet Olson under the leadership of Rev. Richard Monson, Vice President for Community Relations, and Chaplain Joseph Robb, Director of Pastoral Care. Consultation was sought from Ms. Ann Solari-Twadell at Lutheran General’s Parish Nurse Resource Center and financial support for the program was provided by Lutheran Hospital Health Care Foundation.
In January 1989, Lutheran Hospital merged with Moline Public Hospital to form United Medical Center and the first group of Parish Nurses was anointed on May 21, 1989. Since then annual orientation classes and fundraisers have been held to help with training and special projects. By October 1, 1992, United Medical Center consolidated with Franciscan Medical Center, and the Parish Nurse Program experienced enough growth to become its own department within the Division for Church Relations.
During this time, the program not only grew locally but regionally. Staff assisted the International Parish Nurse Resource Center with grants that established spiritually based diagnosis and interventions and community health education projects. They also contributed to the first parish nurse curriculum used to train registered nurses across the country. During those first 15 years, staff and nurses often participated as presenters at the national parish nurse conference and in 2004, the program became an official educational partner with the center, now located in St. Louis.
In January 2006, the program moved under the umbrella of Trinity’s Visiting Nurse and Homemaker Association. By combing forces with VNHA, the Parish Nurse Program is able to blend its holistic ministry with the hospital agency known for community work. The program continues to be a bridge between the clients and the medical community. Parish nurses work with all ages to provide health education, spiritual support, and access to community resources as they partner with VNHA.
Trinity Regional Health System has a strong commitment to support the Parish Nurse Program. Trinity’s mission states it will “use its resources to provide quality care for our patients and improve the health of the communities we serve.” Through Parish Nursing, the partnership between the health system and local congregations provides that enhancement and provision of holistic health.
The Parish Nurse department is now located with VNHA at 106 19th Ave., Suite 101, Moline. To contact us call (309) 779-5122.