Parish Nursing, Risca (Sept 2007)
Press Release 09/07
A CHRISTIAN nurse is helping bring healing and restoration to the lives of churched and unchurched people in her community thanks to a pioneering ministry.
Linda Harris, 57, from Risca, Caerphilly, has been running Parish Nursing successfully for three years and has seen lives changed through her work.
One of only two parish nurses in Wales, the grandmother-of-two has barely stopped for breath since giving up full time nursing a few years ago, and talking on Parish Nursing, devoting all her time to providing church-based health care in her local community.
She works with a number of other volunteers out of Bethany Baptist Church visiting the sick, going out to isolated parts of the community to provide health screenings, and giving essential health advice and counselling.
Linda has set up a number of support groups including one for people recovering from breast cancer, and runs exercise and nutrition classes for the over 50s.
She said: "It's about integrating faith and health and looking after people holistically, body, mind and spirit. - It's about educating people in the community and congregation about their health, and filling the needs in our community."
"People are feeling the benefits of the exercise classes, even people suffering from strokes, and it's a good social event too."
The project receives funding from medical and sports companies, as well as donations from the congregation, but volunteers are always needed.
"God has been good to us and as long as there is money for the projects that is the most important thing. We always need another pair of hands though," Linda added.
In the deprived area of Ty Sign, where the lack of public transport and health care services leave many elderly and single parent residents without essential support, Linda and her team have been able to set up monthly health screenings,
She said: "We have picked up a lot of people who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even some with diabetes."
"We have been able to offer dietary advice and sometimes refer people to experts for treatment. We have had some really positive comments from people about the work we're doing in Ty Sign."
Linda is often asked to visit house-bound residents to give health care and well being advice.
"I am finding I can reach people where perhaps ministers can't," she said.
"People seem to open up to nurses; they want to tell you everything. It is all about building relationships."
In a few short years, Bethany Baptist church and the community around it has been transformed into a centre where anyone can come in and use its services, whatever their beliefs.
Families, OAPs and young people come for arts and crafts classes as well as take part in lively health and exercise clubs.
Linda added: "It is a faith based ministry but we don't push our beliefs on to people, we ask people what they believe and talk to them about it if they want to."
But did Linda ever imagine she would be a major part in the transformation of her church and community?
"I was never one to be doing up front leading. I used to shun courses where I had to speak because I was so nervous, but now I am doing it all with God's help."
Dorothy Dever, 78, from Risca, said the parish nursing ministry has helped her recover her confidence and good health, and has made new friends for life through the church's special ministry."
She said:"I have a heart condition and wouldn't go out on trips if there wasn't a qualified nurse there. I only moved from Bridgend about four years ago and didn't know anybody."
"But through the exercise classes and seeing Linda at health sessions I have so much more confidence now."
"I wasn't confident enough to go back to church on my own but Linda has given me the confidence, she collects me by car and has made a tremendous difference to my life."
She added, "Parish nursing is such a benefit to the whole community because it's about visiting people who are not in the church."
Linda, who joined the church in 1998, is hoping other churches in Wales and beyond will begin Parish Nursing because of the many benefits it brings to the congregation and wider community."
"I am hoping it spreads. I went with six other UK Parish Nurses to visit Chicago as parish nursing has been established there for 20 years. Most churches in the US have parish nurses because it is so effective."
"It is a Christian ministry which spreads across all denominations."
"I am praying for a parish nurse to be in every church one day."