Kate is a 77 year old retired nurse who was recently widowed. Two months after her husband’s death she was admitted to the hospital with bloody diarrhea, loss of appetite, and fatigue. During her hospital stay she had several tests done to diagnose what was going on with her. She spent six days in the hospital before being discharged with two new medications. One of them was an antibiotic, the other one was a steroid. Throughout her stay at the hospital she was given a clear liquid diet. A week after Kate got home from the hospital a concerned neighbor came over to check on her. When the neighbor asked what was wrong with her, Kate admitted she didn’t know what they discovered after performing all of the diagnostic tests. Kate also told her neighbor she didn’t know how long she was supposed to take the steroid, and she was still following a clear liquid diet. She wasn’t sure when she could start adding some solid food to her diet. Kate’s neighbor expressed concern that Kate had left the hospital not knowing any more than she did the day she was admitted.
Kate’s story is not an unusual one. Today’s health care system can be like the express bus that goes across town without making any stops. Patients frequently get off that health care bus afraid to admit that they probably should have stopped somewhere along the way to get more information. When patients leave their doctor’s office, urgent care centers, or hospitals they often have no idea what their next move is; oftentimes falling through the cracks, their needs going unaddressed.
Several weeks later Kate attended a church service for the first time since her husband died. During the announcements the pastor called a woman up to the front of the sanctuary. Kate recognized the woman. Her name was Maggie. She and Kate had worked in the same department at the hospital many years ago. The pastor informed the congregation that their church recently created a new staff position. The title of the new position was Faith Community Nurse, and Maggie was the nurse who was chosen to fill that position.
Maggie explained that Faith Community Nursing was started in the 1970s by the Reverend Granger Westberg, who strongly wanted the church to be what it was meant to be, the health center of the community. He recognized nurses as people in the congregation who understood both the physical and the spiritual aspects of human beings. Maggie explained that the mission of Faith Community Nursing is to integrate faith into the practice of healthcare to help congregants achieve wholeness. As Kate listened to Maggie’s presentation of Faith Community Nursing, she realized how helpful it would have been to have Maggie with her when she was being discharged from the hospital, while simultaneously feeling grateful to learn she would have that option in the future.