Compassionate care: diverse group of parish nurses graduate





SIH Ministry Coordinator Jo SandersBy D.W. Norris
The Southern
CARTERVILLE — It took about a dozen years for it to happen, but everything finally came together for nurse and respiratory therapist Steve Rhodes to become a parish nurse with Southern Illinois Healthcare.
Rhodes said he helped start a home visitation program with SIH 12 years ago. This summer was his first chance to take the next step and become a parish nurse. Rhodes was one of a dozen nurses who took part in a graduation ceremony and religious service for SIH’s parish nursing program Thursday at John A. Logan College.
“I finally had an opportunity, timing-wise, to do it,” Rhodes said.
Jo Sanders, health ministry coordinator for SIH and a member of Marion First UMC, said 114 nurses have become parish nurses since 1999, but Thursday’s graduating class was something special.
“This group is really a diverse group,” Sanders said. “We have men, women, the young, the mature — it’s a good cross section of churches.”
Parish nurses are integrators of faith and health, and the belief is they can help others achieve higher levels of wellness by improving those patients’ physical, emotional, relational and spiritual health.
Hundreds of studies have been conducted on the healing power of prayer, including a recently completed unscientific study by Indiana University researchers about the value of proximal prayer. The study found that people healed faster when somebody praying for them was close.
Parish nurses act as health counselors who will listen and discuss general health concerns with individuals. They also educate patients about health issues, prevention and wellness. Parish nurses can act as advocates for or advisors on proper health care and service referrals. Finally, they act as developers of support or volunteer groups that promote the caring ministries of a congregation.
Parish nurses are not physicians, and they will not provide home health care such as physical care or administering medication. They do not do occupational, physical or psychotherapy. Despite their apparently deep faith, parish nurses are also not members of clergy.
Woody Thorne, vice president of community affairs for SIH, said the parish nurse service is something Southern Illinoisans want.
“This is just another example of the work we do to try to improve community health,” Thorne said. “It’s important not only inside our hospital walls, but in the communities we serve. Faith is important in Southern Illinois.”
Thorne said parish nurses work in 50 faith communities in the area.
Members of health ministry programs, such as parish nurses, are visiting homes, nursing homes and hospital. They host health fairs and blood drives and offer flu shots. Parish nurses educate people on medication safety, hand washing, poison prevention, health and exercise, and end-of-life decisions.
Health ministries are also offering CPR classes and first aid kits, support groups and transportation ministry, women’s retreats and programming, babysitting classes, and prayer support.
For more information on becoming a parish nurse, call 618-457-5200 ext. 67830 or e-mail Sanders at
(Reprinted with permission from the Aug. 7 issue of The Southern).