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What other congregations are saying about parish nurses

By Susan Shinn
sshinn@salisburypost.com
Here’s what others are saying about parish nursing in the South Rowan area:
First Methodist, China Grove
Beginning in 2000, Martha Baker became the county’s first parish nurse, serving First Methodist Church in China Grove until 2006.
Although the church hired a youth and children’s minister after Baker retired, the need for a parish nurse was still there, according to the Rev. Vance Lowe.
Zetta Earnhardt is in the process of becoming the church’s volunteer parish nurse.
“It’s really good for our senior population,” Lowe says, “and they probably made the most use of it.”
But Earnhardt will also be conducting health fairs and providing education on health issues for the wider congregation as well.
Because Earnhardt works full-time as a nurse at the health department, Lowe says, “We’ll have to be creative with scheduling her time. But we figured that it was better than not having a parish nurse.”
“I want to be available to the congregation as much as possible to answer their questions,” Earnhardt says. “I’m hoping that I can put more time in it at some point.”
Earnhardt knows that being a nurse at the health department will be an advantage, because is aware of current health issues that not only affect seniors but teens as well.
And she can explain in lay terms what those issues mean.
“That will be a big part of my job,” she says. “Those of the things of things I want to be available for.”
Concordia Lutheran, China Grove
Parish nurse Shirley Allen also works full-time, so much of her volunteer time is spent on the phone and on visits, according to The Rev. Ken Reed, Concordia’s pastor.
Allen, who works at NorthEast, brought the idea of parish nursing to the congregation.
“She’s been a direct resource person whom folks can call and talk to,” Reed says.
Allen even started a diabetes support group for the congregation because there had been so many requests for more information about the disease.
Allen makes hospital visits and offers prayer before and after surgeries, Reed says. “It’s really an extension of the pastoral ministry and an extension of the health ministry all wrapped up in a healthcare professional.”
Reed sees the fact that Allen is already a member of the congregation as an advantage.
“I think there’s a level of intimacy they have with her because she’s a church member that they don’t have with their healthcare provider.
“She has been an extremely valuable resource in talking with families about eldercare, Hospice and home health.”
Allen conducts blood pressure screenings one Sunday a month, and is always available on Sunday mornings.
“Even though she’s a volunteer, her availability is incredible,” Reed says. “She’s very approachable. She’s a resource for me.”
Prospect Presbyterian & Woodleaf UMC
Parish nurse Sybil Perrell serves two congregations, Prospect Presbyterian in Mooresville and Woodleaf United Methodist Church.
She works 15 hours a week at each church in paid positions.
Perrell has been in nursing for 30 years, and several years ago, her minister encouraged her to go into the ministry.
As Perrell discerned her call, she discovered parish nursing.
“I thought, hey, this is something I can go into without switching careers,” Perrell says.
She discovered that parish nursing was the perfect fit for her.
She took a weeklong course in Florida in 2004, and became a volunteer parish nurse at Woodleaf in 2007.
She began part-time work at Prospect in September 2007, and switched to part-time work at Woodleaf in August.
She also works eight hours a week as an occupational health nurse.
A big part of her ministry centers around teaching. She’s taught a Bible study/exercise class and a Bible study/weight loss class with younger populations.
“I enjoy teaching very much,” Perrell says. “This has given me a good outlet for my teaching skills.”
She’s satisfied with her call.
“I think this is what God had planned all along,” she says. “This is what I was meant to do.”

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