Norwich church puts nurses at heart of community
A Norwich church is putting parish nurses at the heart of its community. Helen Baldry reports.
Angela Stewart (Parish Nurse) and Eleanor Laming (Assistant Practitioner) are part of the parish nurse team at St Francis Church on the Heartsease estate in Norwich. They have the unique offer of practical support to people, time to listen and the ability to share their faith as Christian nurses.
The ministry, which was the first of its kind in Norfolk, was established at St Francis Church where Angela is a lay minister, two years ago. Parish nurses often work with a team of volunteers, and there are currently seven members of the team at St Francis. The team is ecumenical, linking the Church of England with the Salvation Army.
Christian nurses are often wary of sharing their faith because of the fear of being misinterpreted. Parish nurses are unique in the way that they can offer the opportunity for people to explore the spiritual aspects of their health care if they choose to. Angela said, “What we bring is God into the situation. We always ask people if we can pray for them. No-one has ever refused”.
The team treat people from all walks of life – from elderly, isolated people with dementia to young families and people who are homeless.
Eleanor said that they regularly meet people with complicated issues, and they can take the approach of whole person healthcare, addressing physical, mental, social and spiritual needs. She said, “We have got the time to listen”. Eleanor is a qualified aromatherapist and offers aromatherapy and massage treatment. She has frequently seen people gain confidence as their health improves.
Angela, who trained at the old Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, is a registered nurse and she runs the weekly clinic on Wednesdays as well as regular sessions at the church luncheon club and home visits. She supports team member Diana, to offer ministry for people who have been bereaved. The team are also involved with flower ministry and a craft group run by team member Margaret. Having wifi installed for the service has enabled a computer training club at the church. All of which places them at the heart of the community. They have a good relationship with local health related voluntary organisations and links with the local surgeries and NHS.
Parish Nurses do not offer any clinical treatments, such as dressings or injections as these are provided by NHS Nurses, but will support people in getting the care they need.
Networking is an important part of the role of parish nurses because they often refer people on to other agencies who can assist them with specific needs, for example if they need help accessing benefits or need support to address addictions.
Support from a parish nurse is available to people of all ages and backgrounds and of all faiths and none. The nurses are employed by the church - some on a part time basis and Angela and Eleanor are keen to promote the concept of parish nursing amongst more churches in Norfolk, of all denominations, and would like to see many more of them begin this work.
To find out more contact Angela on 01603 300916 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Pictured above are Parish Nurse Angela Stewart, left, and Assistant Practitioner Eleanor Laming.