top of page
  • Karen McPhail, RN, MSN

A Parish Nurse and a Pandemic

This week we have a beautiful blog by Susan Infeld, RN BSN FCN who shares her Covid experiences as a Parish Nurse. Susan Infeld is Parish Nurse at St. John Neumann Catholic Community in Reston, VA. She can be reached at

When we think of healthcare workers and COVID 19, we first think of those who serve in acute and chronic clinical settings; EMS providers, hospital personnel and nursing home staff. They deal primarily with the physical effects of the virus on an individual's overall health. Yet this disease affects not just physically, but psychologically, emotionally and spiritually as well. As a Faith Community Nurse or Parish Nurse, my role is more holistic to help meet those needs.

So what is a Parish Nurse or Faith Community Nursing? It is "a specialized practice of professional nursing that focuses on the intentional care of the spirit as well as on the promotion of holistic health and prevention or minimization of illness within the context of a faith community. The PN or FCN is knowledgeable in two primary areas—professional nursing and spiritual care."*To be clear, Faith Community Nursing is NOT hands on physician directed care. I don't give shots or change bandages. The FCN is a member of the pastoral care team and supports the clergy, staff and faith community as educator, advocate, resource person and referral agent; all within the faith tradition.

This pandemic has brought new breadth and challenges to my role as Parish Nurse. Given the health restrictions this virus demands, communication and education with parishioners has necessarily changed. Instead of in person group seminars, I frequently write health related articles (pertaining to both physical and mental health) for the on-line parish bulletin as well as contribute to the parish web site and social media page. Our teen summer "Workcamp" program that annually serves at a remote location could not travel this year. In lieu of, they elected to upgrade the parish grounds. My role as Parish Nurse was to write and supervise COVID safety protocols for the teens, volunteers, contractors and staff, as well review health histories, set up a first aid station and be an on-site resource for any health related issues. A financial donation in honor of a former parishioner led to my coordinating a cottage industry of sewers that produced over 4000 face coverings for parishioners and local non-profits, also serving local immigration and senior communities. When re-integration of our Faith Community became a reality, I was called upon as health advisor to help draft procedures and protocols to ensure a safe environment for our families to return to worship.

But my most satisfying work comes with support of families and staff who are struggling with the effects of COVID in their personal lives. My first call came 24 hours after Virginia's "stay at home" order was mandated. A senior parishioner living with her extended family, reached out in distress as she had developed a sore throat; a potential symptom of COVID 19. Providing her with guidance and several days follow up were thankfully, all she and her family needed at that frightening time. I accompanied a widow to make funeral arrangements for her husband lost to COVID as no family could travel to be with her. A parishioner with COVID 19 being discharged from the hospital reached out in trepidation; where could he find home health care given his diagnosis? A COVID positive parishioner in quarantine needed help with paying the rent; and a pregnant Hispanic mother with a COVID positive family member sought health guidance in her native language. Our homebound parishioners who can no longer receive Communion on Fridays, need someone from the parish to regularly check on them; reminding them that they are still with us and have not been forgotten. These examples are a sampling of my role as Parish Nurse during this pandemic.

I am grateful for the prayerful and practical work that I have done as a Faith Community Nurse since 2007, and the years of practice in the ER and hospice that have helped prepare me for this journey. Every day is different; and every day is fulfilling. I am blessed to be a part of people's lives at their most sacred times.

Please reach out if you would like more information on Faith Community Nursing!

Susan Infeld RN BSN FCN

* Faith Community Nursing Scope and Standards of Practice 3rd Edition

153 views0 comments
bottom of page