116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — When Anne Reynolds treats her patients, she focuses on healing their bodies, minds and spirits.
'Faith is part of wholistic care,' said Reynolds, a parish nurse at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and Olivet Neighborhood Mission in Cedar Rapids. 'Faith is spirit. It makes us whole, it helps us accept a devastating diagnosis or deal with a death.'
Parish nursing — a specialty practice within the nursing field — combines more traditional nursing duties and health education with counseling and spiritual guidance. Parish nurses are registered nurses who work within a faith community, offering support during times of need, visiting a parishioner at home or in the hospital, or explaining a new diagnosis.
Parish nurses also can hold health screenings, flu vaccination clinics or chronic-condition workshops for parishioners.
'I integrate faith into health,' she said, explaining she'll take opportunities to pray or help the parishioner schedule time to meet with the priest.
More recently she has worked closely with the Hispanic ministry pastor to provide services to Spanish-speaking parishioners.
'I have more time to listen,' said Reynolds, who has been a parish nurse since 2011. 'They'll open up to me.'
The parishioners she sees might not have health care coverage or a car, she said. The hours they work might make it difficult to get to a doctor, or they may have had a bad experience with a physicians and want advice about finding a new provider.
Parishioners know her, she said — they see her at mass or around church — so they're more comfortable with her than other providers. She also can meet them in places that aren't as scary as a hospital or clinic — such as a coffee shop, at church or in someone's home.
'People being concerned about your well-being can make a big difference,' Reynolds said.
To become a parish nurse, an individual must complete 32 hours of education — which comes out to be about 10 or 11 classes — said Melissa Cullum, manager of community benefit and mission outreach ministries at Mercy Medical Center, which oversees the parish nurse educational program. The classes feature a variety of speakers, from lawyers and counselors to bereavement specialists.
The hospital began offering the course on an annual basis in 2010. Since then, 110 nurses have completed the course. Mercy employs four to six parish nurses to work within their churches about 10 hours a week.
'The 2008 flood was really the catalyst,' Cullum said. 'There were so many community needs. We knew about parish nursing and thought it would be beneficial to bring it to the community.'
Only a few hospitals in the state — in the Quad Cities and Des Moines — offer parish nursing education, Cullum said, and Mercy is the only hospital in the Corridor to do so. That means participants come from all over, including Waverly, Independence and as far away as Michigan.
'They see the importance of spiritual care,' she said.
Becky Clevelend is among the batch of most recent graduates — the 11 nurses finished their education in late April.
Cleveland, a retired behavioral health nurse, was seeking to get involved in the community, she said.
'I didn't like not being a nurse,' she said.
She joined Immaculate Conception with her husband, which is where she met Reynolds and learned more about Mercy's parish nursing program.
'It's been fun to be back learning,' she said, adding she enjoyed the classes on ethics and spiritual care. 'This is a different kind of nursing. And I'm anxious to get going.'
Now that Cleveland has completed the program, she hopes to work with Reynolds at Immaculate Conception, the Olivet Neighborhood Mission and Willis Dady Emergency Shelter.
'Places that need a nursing presence,' she said.