Deborah Patterson knows health ministry. As the executive director ofNorthwest Parish Nurse Ministries and author of Health Ministries: A Primer for Clergy and Congregations,
she works daily with parish nurses, pastors, and health professionals.
In this feature, she answers your most pressing or perplexing questions
on health ministry. Are you hitting a roadblock with a program in your
church? Are you wondering where to start with health ministry? Do you
feel like you need a new idea on a specific topic? Ask Deborah!
QUESTION: I would like to know whether or not there are any liabilities in being a parish nurse in general, and if so, what are they? Is there any kind of insurance policy needed by the church or parish nurse? My daughter-in-law is now acting as the parish nurse at our church. She is a registered nurse and currently in school for her nurse practitioner degree graduating in May 2012. She is very knowledgeable and on top of her game; we are very proud of her. Thank you for a return response.
ANSWER: First of all, thank you for telling me that your daughter-in-law is a registered nurse (not an LPN) with a valid nursing license for the state in which she is working.This is a requirement per the Scope and Standards for Faith Community Nursing as approved by the American Nurses Association. Another requirement is that anyone working as a parish or faith community nurse should have taken a Foundations in Faith Community Nursing class of at least 30 hours. If she hasn’t done so already, your daughter-in-law can find one of these classes on the website of the IPNRC of the Church Health Center, which maintains educational partner relationships with more than 140 colleges and other health education organizations around the United States and abroad. Some of these classes are available online to fit her busy schedule, and most offer academic credit. All offer continuing education credit for the course.
As a licensed RN, oriented to the specialty practice, your daughter-in-law then would be eligible for liability insurance. I applaud you for encouraging her to do so. It is available in two ways, and I would encourage her to take advantage of both ways. First, the congregation should add her as a covered individual (volunteer or paid staff, depending on her situation) to their insurance plan for general liability. In addition, she should purchase her own professional nursing liability insurance, which is easily done through an organization such as Nurses Service Organization. They are very familiar with faith community nursing and have covered many nurses across the country.
Having said that, the cost will be surprisingly affordable. This is because there is only a miniscule risk for a claim against a faith community nurse. For one thing, the type of nursing that is provided by a faith community nurse is “non-invasive/non-hands on,” which means that your daughter-in-law won’t be giving shots or passing out medications, so she can’t give the wrong one. Secondly, most faith community nurses are able to take the time to develop a strong trusting relationship with the people they serve, which is another factor that greatly reduces the likelihood of both mistakes and litigation.
I would encourage your congregation, if it has not already done so, to put together a health committee to support your daughter-in-law’s work. It is most helpful if other people understand these issues as well, and a committee could be helpful in raising funds to cover out-of-pocket expenses such as the liability insurance, mileage, and perhaps a stipend.
Many blessings to you, to your congregation, and to your daughter-in-law. I think you are all very fortunate to have each other!