New Degree for Parish Nurses

New Degree for Parish Nurses

By Kathleen Sullivan
Staff Writer

In a new program at the intersection of faith and health care, Boston College has created a joint master's degree program in its School of Nursing and Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry.

Students may earn a master of art degree in pastoral ministry and a master of science degree in nursing in a variety of advanced practice specialties. The new program is aimed at professionals in "parish nursing," who provide health care services in faith communities.

"The need for greater knowledge and skill in spiritual assessment and care in today's fragmented health care delivery system is clear," said Assoc. Prof. Susan Chase (SON), who noted that BC has the only school of nursing in the Northeast that offers a parish nursing curriculum in partnership with the International Parish Nurse Resource Center of Chicago.

"Graduates of the joint degree program will be prepared to function in a variety of clinical and pastoral settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, community health care settings, churches or synagogues," she added.

The joint degree can be completed in three years, said IREPM Associate Director for Academic Affairs Harold Horell, and represents an opportunity for "the laity to connect their faith to everyday life. We have seen a longing among many in the health care field to address the spiritual as well as physical needs of their patients." These professionals want to be "prepared to answer questions from their patients about faith and spirituality," he said.

The program also opens up possibilities for those looking at a "career in lay ministry who want to use their gifts in an area of need," Horell added.

The new program "fits perfectly with our mission in the School of Nursing as well as with the University's Jesuit mission," SON Dean Barbara Hazard Munro added. "We have seen an excellent response to our continuing education sessions about parish nursing. There is a high level of interest in this type of training. I think people are looking to make connections in their life and to be a part of a cohesive community, and many are finding this connection through their faith."

IREPM Director Claire Lowery said the new joint degree "is an important example of creative educational partnership in addressing a contemporary need in today's society. This new joint degree program will prepare ministers to bring both the rich resources of the theological tradition as well as the knowledge and expertise of medical practice to their caring for members of their faith community. It is a ministry that emphasizes the health of the whole person - body, mind and spirit."

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