Health Ministry and MHM: A Look at the Wesley Nurse Program

by George Thomas, Chief Operating OfficerGeorge-Thomas-2013

The Wesley Theological Seminary, a teaching seminary and service-oriented community located in Washington, DC, has identified a variety of health ministry models to include:

  1. Congregational Health & Wellness Ministry – Health ministry seeks to find common ground among other congregational ministries, such as social justice, religious education, volunteer visitors, hospitality and youth ministries.
  2. Health Ministers – Health ministers are healthcare professionals, barbers, stay-at-home parents and lawyers to accountants. They can take be health navigators, wellness coaches, outreach workers, health educators, and health ambassadors, promoters de salud and health promoters.
  3. Faith Community Nursing – The American Nurses Association, working with the Health Ministries Association, approved a new registered nurse certification program for Faith Community Nurses. Faith Community Nursing, formerly known as parish nursing, is a process for active licensed registered nurses to obtain a specialty practice certification by portfolio beginning in 2014. Some of the key roles of a faith community nurse may include health education, health counseling, referrals, health ministry team coordinator and volunteer coordination.
  4. Hospital/Primary Care Based Congregational Networks – With the Affordable Care Act healthcare legislation emphasizing population-based care and improved health care continuity for patients, the health minister and faith community nurse roles shows promise. From a hospital's and primary care provider's perspective, these roles are valuable in that they provide linkages and connections into the community, especially faith communities.
  5. Community Based Congregational Networks – Health ministry teams from different places of worship often join together in local or regional networks to share resources and support each other through regular meetings.

At Methodist Healthcare Ministries (MHM), we have adopted a Faith Community Nursing approach to health ministry. This model is carried out through our Wesley Nurse Program, which was established in 1997 and has grown to serve 80 sites throughout South Texas making it MHM's largest geographic outreach program. All Wesley Nurses are Registered Nurses – an aspect unique to MHM. Currently, all Wesley Nurses are in the process of becoming certified in Faith Community Nursing. The certification is awarded through the American Nurses Credentialing Center in partnership with the Health Ministries Association.

From a primary care perspective, Wesley Nurses are an invaluable link in the healthcare delivery continuum. They connect people, congregations and community to health and wellness. They motivate others to action while remaining grounded in faith. We could not operate successfully without this important ministry.