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United Methodist Parish Nurse Provides Holistic Care; Helps Church Members Increase Health Awarenes

 


Contact: Nancye Willis
(615) 742-5406
e-mail: nwillis@umcom.org

May 21, 2003

MITCHELL, S.D.—Deb Schoenfelder has a big mission in this small town. She’s a parish nurse, through an outreach program of The United Methodist Church.

As health counselors and educators, community resource liaisons and facilitators, parish nurses assist church members to become more aware of their health and to move toward a fuller sense of wholeness.

A registered nurse and a staff member of First United Methodist Church here, Schoenfelder is among about 100 parish nurses in the state. Each is related to a congregation or a group of congregations in a full- or part-time program, in either a paid or a volunteer position.

(Schoenfelder and the parish nursing program are featured on a UMTV video report the week of May 21. It is available at the UMTV Web site www.umtv.org.)

Parish nursing offers variety, Schoenfelder said, “dealing with the person in a holistic manner, seeing the person as body, mind and spirit all in one.” And, she added, “You can visit a newborn and 90-year-old all in the same day.”

Although they make home visits, do blood-pressure screenings at churches, and most importantly, offer friendship, parish nurses do not replace doctors. Instead, they provide checkups, advocacy, prayers and bonding with their patients in ways traditional medicine does not.

“It’s very important that I pick up on certain aspects of their health ahead of time before something tragic happens, like a fall or something like that,” Schoenfelder said. “I love it. It’s the type of nursing I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do.”

“I feel it’s a real calling from God,” she added.

The United Methodist Church’s missions agency, based in New York, supports parish nursing through its health and welfare ministries unit. The denomination is among several that support the program to offer people a place to turn with their medical concerns.

Parish nurses receive additional preparation in holistic ministry, which is available in a number of colleges and universities, including Dakota Wesleyan University here. The United Methodist-related university has awarded 22 scholarships to registered nurses to take the course.

Dakota Wesleyan is among more than 90 four-year colleges and universities affiliated with The United Methodist Church. The John Templeton Foundation selected it for its 1997-98 Honor Roll for Character-Building Colleges, a biennial award recognizing innovation and leadership in promoting character development among students.

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