Nursing on a Mission

By Doris Giles, RN, MS, and Debbie Seider, RN, MSN
Congregational Nursing Coordinators, Methodist Health System

Many hospitals talk the talk about treating the whole person -– body, mind, and spirit. We’re proud to say that at Methodist Health System, we walk the walk. As congregational nursing coordinators, we extend the Methodist Health System mission by partnering with nurses at faith communities to help them have healthier congregations.

What, you may ask, is a congregational nurse? Congregational nursing traces its modern roots to the 1980s when a Lutheran minister in Chicago realized that nurses in congregations were uniquely positioned to bridge the languages of faith and health. He recognized that nurses could help bridge the gap between the church and modern medicine and could augment care for patients through the faith-based system ensuring whole person health -- body, mind, and spirit.

Today, we’re proud that our congregational model has expanded to include 54 churches in Dallas, Oak Cliff, Cedar Hill, Lancaster, Red Oak, DeSoto, Duncanville, Mesquite, and Grand Prairie. The focus of congregational nursing is health promotion and disease prevention with the intentional integration of faith and health. Many of the congregants in the churches we serve suffer from chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension. These diseases take a toll not only on individuals, but on the group as a whole. So, helping people understand what they can do to prevent health issues and the value of early detection and treatment improves their health and the overall well-being of the entire congregation.

We know that we can only do so much. That’s why, when we’re dealing with such big challenges as diabetes and high blood pressure, we turn to recognized, well-respected partners to support our efforts. We’ve partnered with the American Diabetes Association to implement Project POWER, a faith-based curriculum to help members of congregations understand diabetes, care for themselves if they have the disease, and recognize signs and symptoms that put them at risk for developing the disease. We also link up with social agencies that share the same mission and commitment as Methodist.

We know that physical, emotional, and spiritual health are intertwined. Often, spiritual issues arise from physical ailments. Or, emotional issues can trigger physical responses. That’s why we look at the whole person and his or her individual situation and intentionally integrate health and faith to provide care.

Our interest in congregational nursing grew from our desire to combine our personal experiences of service at church with our nursing profession. For example, we were dismayed when renal patients came in to begin dialysis because their kidneys had been damaged by undiagnosed diabetes or hypertension. The model of congregational nursing may have been able to prevent their kidney failure from occurring. We were elated to discover that Methodist promoted this model of nursing in the community and became coordinators for the congregational nursing program in 1999 and 2000.

We can’t say enough about the rewards we receive from the congregations with whom we work. We see the payoff of our efforts every day as congregations become physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthier. And our work with fellow nurses to help them understand the mind, body, spirit connection, is extremely gratifying. As nurses, we are trained to do procedures, but we don’t always learn how to just “be” with someone. We strive to bridge that gap when we work with other nurses on the philosophy of congregational nursing.

Here are five important attributes we think contribute to a successful congregational nurse:

  • Passion. Has a passion for serving others.
  • Maturity. Has developed professional maturity and an understanding of his or her faith -– understanding that other people’s faith may not be the same as yours.
  • Healthy boundaries. Maintains healthy boundaries.
  • Integrity and character. Knows how to respond appropriately to sensitive and confidential information.
  • Reflective. Knows how to assess his or her spirituality on a day-to-day basis.

Our best advice to nurses considering congregational nursing as a career is to evaluate what you’d like to do and then make a good decision based upon where God is leading you.

If nursing is your calling, then it’s time to explore the many nursing opportunities available at Methodist where you can share your gifts. Learn more by visiting

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