Pastoral Nursing Care National Network

Leonie Rastas MACN
Carmel McLeod MACN
The Pastoral Nursing Care National Network was established in July 2009, in response to a request from a number of nurses who work in this area of professional focus, which embraces physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. This new network will provide the opportunity for pastoral care nurses and other nurses, all equally committed to the provision of holistic health care connecting body, mind and spirit, to engage with one another. Interactive network discussion will provide the opportunity for nurses from various backgrounds to consider their responsiveness to individual beliefs and the initiation of appropriate referral pathways for people entrusted to their care. Network discussion may also create the opportunity to consider and explore the possible ethical dilemmas which are often faced by individuals, families and clinicians in the health care environment.
The role of the pastoral nurse is a relatively new concept in Australia and offers a unique specialty nursing practice based on the model developed by the Nursing Faculty at Loyola University, Chicago in consultation with American Lutheran Pastor Granger Westburg in the early 1980’s. Westburg conceived the idea after observing the added dimension faith filled nurses bought to their practice and wanted to extend that care beyond the hospital walls. The practice of parish nursing has now spread worldwide and parish/pastoral nurses operate in the USA, Britain, Finland, South Korea, Canada, Swaziland, Madagascar, New Zealand and Australia.
Specifically, the pastoral nurse role involves:
  • counselling people on how to maintain good health by keeping a balance in their spiritual, emotional and physical lives
  • helping people find the connection between the spirit and health, particularly in times of suffering
  • promoting spiritual health in the faith community through health seminars and information exchange
  • speaking to doctors and other health providers on behalf of people who are experiencing difficulty in navigating the health system, and also referring onto other services if necessary
  • training, resourcing and supporting volunteers within specific community groups
  • developing exercise and support groups, for example, cancer support, grief and loss and prayer in movement classes
The importance of spirituality in health care is well recognised today and Australian Catholic University includes Spirituality in Healthcare as a core unit in their undergraduate nursing and direct entry midwifery course.

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