Updated: August 18, 2021

Parish Nurse Overview

  • What You Will Do: Provide care for the people of a faith community, working to promote wellness, with an emphasis on integrating faith and health.
  • Where Will You Work: Most parish nurses work in churches, but may work in other venues such as hospitals or social service agencies
  • Employment Projections: Nursing is expected to be the fastest-growing professions, with growth projected at 16% – 23%. However, there is no specific data regarding parish nurses.
  • How Much Will I Earn: While there is no specific data about parish nurse salaries, the average annual salary for professional nurses is $68,450.
  • Requirements to Become One: Become an RN; with a bachelor’s degree (BSN) preferred, then obtaining licensure as a professional registered nurse by passing the NCLEX-RN examination.

Nursing Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Six Steps to Become a Parish Nurse

  • Earn Your RN: You must earn an RN degree from an accredited associate degree or bachelor degree program. It is important to note that the BSN degree is recommended for parish nurses.
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam: All RNs must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain licensure to practice nursing. See our NCLEX study guides.
  • Gain general medical-surgical nursing: The International Parish Nurse Resource Center (IPNRC) recommends that RNs should have 3 – 5 years or general med-surg nursing, and should also have knowledge about public health nursing and education, and patient counseling.
  • Seek Employment as a Parish Nurse: Parish nurses may be employed by or volunteer to work with a church ministry, or in another venue, such as a hospital, working with the chaplain services.
  • Obtain Parish Nurse Training: The IPRNC recommends that after gaining general nursing experience, RNs take courses related to parish nursing..
  • Obtain Parish Nurse Certification: Although certification is not a requirement for parish nurses, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers a registered nurse – board certified (RN – BC) credential in parish/faith community nursing.

What is a Parish Nurse?

Parish nurses provide care within parish/faith communities, incorporating religious beliefs, spirituality and heath care to promote healing and wellness among the members of that community. Parish nurses may provide health care services such as preventative health screening activities or may visit members of their community at home or in the hospital or long-term care facility. They may offer counseling about health care issues, or provide education, promoting preventative care and health maintenance. Other potential activities include leading support groups, making referrals for needed community resources, or volunteering in community service, such as shelters, or community kitchens. Parish nursing allows for autonomy, creativity and flexibility, and the opportunity to work with community health organizations, developing and enacting plans to establish healthy communities.

How Do I Become a Parish Nurse?

The first step toward becoming a parish nurse is to become a Registered Nurse, earning an Associate Degree in Nursing or Bachelor of Science degree from an accredited nursing program. The IPRNC recommends that individuals wanting to become parish nurses obtain the BSN degree, as BSN curricula include courses such as public health nursing, nursing management, nursing technology, and health care ethics.  After graduation, you must obtain RN licensure by taking the NCLEX-RN examination in your state.

The next step is to obtain 3 – 5 years general medical-surgical nursing experience, then work as a parish nurse, and seek training related to parish nursing. The IPRNC offers several courses that provide a better understanding about parish nursing. Some schools may also offer related courses. Also, it is important to have an understanding of differing religions, and how spirituality, religious beliefs, and culture combine to affect health care decisions

While certification is not a requirement, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) does offer a registered nurse – board certified (RN – BC) credential in parish/faith community nursing. Eligibility requires:

  • Current, active professional nursing licensure
  • 2 or more years of practice as an RN
  • A minimum of 1000 hours experience as a parish/faith community nurse within the past 3 years.
  • Meet two professional development categories, such as
    • Related academic credits
    • Presentations
    • Publication or research
    • Act as a preceptor
    • Professional service

Certification, valid for 5 years, is awarded by presenting s portfolio and completing an online application

Where Do Parish Nurses Typically Work?

Parish nurses typically work with faith-based ministries, but may also work in other venues such as hospitals or long-term care agencies, working with the chaplain services in those organizations. Many hospitals and other agencies are faith-based organizations, as well. Parish nurses can also work independently, providing spiritual guidance and health care for members of their own faith community

How Much Do Parish Nurses Earn?

Although there are no published data related to parish nurses salary, nursing, in general, is identified as one of the fastest growing professions in the US in terms of salary, with a projected growth of 16% or higher, much higher than the national average. Specialty certification can increase earnings significantly; Salaries are generally higher in urban areas, however, the cost of living is typically higher, as well. In addition, bachelor’s prepared nurses tend to earn higher salaries than nurses with associate degrees. The median annual RN salary for nurses is 68,450, but the range of potential salary can vary, depending on degrees and certifications held, and job location. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the top five states for general nursing salaries are (range 88,770 – 102,700);

  • California
  • Hawaii
  • District of Columbia
  • Massachusetts
  • Oregon

Parish Nurse Education

Additional nursing specialty education for parish nurses include university or hospital-based post-RN parish nurse preparation courses as well as Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) level programs that integrate nursing and faith-based ministry.

Some examples of parish nursing programs include:

What is a Typical Parish Nursing Curriculum?

The IPNRC – Westberg Institute Foundations of Faith community Nursing Program curriculum, serves as a template for many parish nursing programs. Modules include:

  • Spiritualty
  • Professionalism
  • Holistic Health
  • Community

Specific topics addressed include;

  • Spiritual care
  • Prayer
  • Self-care
  • Ethical issues
  • Documenting practice
  • Behavioral health
  • Health promotion
  • Life issues of violence
  • Suffering and grief
  • Assessment
  • Care coordination

The Role of a Parish Nurse in the Nursing Shortage

The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that employment for nurses will increase at a rate of 16% by 2024. There is a national shortage of nurses in general related to the Baby Boomer population entering retirement, and the increased health needs of the growing aging population. It is projected that the South and West will be hardest hit by the nursing shortage. The 12 states expected to have the most acute shortages are; Florida, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and New Mexico.

Just as there is an increasing demand for nurses, in general, the need and demand for parish nurses is increasing, Faith-based nursing is especially attractive to more seasoned nurses, interested in a work environment that promotes body, mind, spiritual, interpersonal and community connections with a focus on holistic health care.

Parish Nursing Resources


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Sources: 50 State Boards of Nursing, University Websites, U.S. Department of Education, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ranking Methodology.