PBS’s Religion and Ethics Newsweekly recently featured a piece on parish nurses. Churches of several different denominations, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, have begun using RNs to meet the physical as well as spiritual needs of ailing parishioners.
When I saw this program, I thought what a blessing it would be to have a ward RN assigned to visit our homebound elderly. My ward has many elderly members, most of them living alone. I pick up groceries for an ailing lady around the corner from me, and she calls me when lonely. However, my medical expertise is nil. I cannot offer reliable information or advice. I’ve never met her family and don’t know how to contact them in an emergency. I don’t know what her wishes are about treatment in the event I walk in with a bag of milk and bananas and find her unresponsive.
I’m sure this lady and others like her in my ward are a huge drain on the Relief Society president’s time and energy. A ward RN could assess medical needs, counsel with the elderly and ill about options available for their care, and record emergency contact information. This would relieve ward leaders from duties they may not be trained to perform. It would also promote better quality of life for ward members in need. Most of the parish-nurses featured on the PBS program work as volunteers. Sounds like a great calling to include in Mormon wards.