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Healthy Life: Parish Nursing Program Integrates Faith and Healing

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CEDAR RAPIDS - Nurse Elaine Boes walks the halls of Mercy Medical Center. making her rounds.
"Hi, it's us!," she says as she enters a patient's room. But her rounds have a different purpose than a traditional nurse.

"We're saying prayers for you at St. Wensceslas," Boes says to Karen Oakley, a patient at Mercy. She is visiting Oakley as a Parish Nurse. It's a program designed to integrate faith and healing, making the ultimate mind, body and spirit connection.

""Until you heal all, you cannot heal the whole person. And that's what a parish nurse focuses on," says Nurse Anne Nugent, Director of Community Benefit & Mission Outreach at Mercy. Nugent says Parish Nurses volunteer their time, to help their congregations with all things health related.

""They may come back from their doctor and say they started me on a new medication explain this to me, or I'm leaving the hospital and I don't understand my discharge instructions," Nugent says. It runs the gamut.

Health education is just one part of what a parish nurse does. Boes is visiting patients to pray with them and help them through their treatments. She stops by for St. Wenseceslaus and Immaculate Conception Churches in Cedar Rapids. And Oakley, who is a member at St. Wenseceslaus, is recovering from breast cancer related surgery. Her trip back to the hospital suddenly was a little jarring.

"The spiritual healing has helped a lot," says Oakley. "I've never been a spiritual person, until this time, when you go through the times all the sudden you find things, and this is one of the things."

There are strict standards to become a parish nurse. The program at Mercy has certified dozens throughout the Midwest, and the entire country. Nugent, who helps to coordinate the Parish Nursing Program at Mercy say it helps fill a missing piece of the puzzle for many who have dedicated their lives to healing others. "The one thing that they have missed throughout all their years of working is that spiritual connection with their patient," she says. "Taking time to pray with their patients."

And since the nurses don't have to focus solely on the physical healing, they can focus on the whole body, and the whole person.
Boes says she goes in to see each patient with an open mind. "It depends on the person and what their needs are. Make it special for each person. "

Parish Nurses integrate faith and healing with prayers for each patient, and with a goal of healing their mind, body, and spirit.

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