Bert Harsch with Parish Nurse Elaine Domning

The diagnosis of heart disease and the need for open heart surgery came as a shock to Bert Harsch and his wife, Myrna. The crisis was made easier because of the ministry of a part-time parish nurse on staff at their church. Bert credits Elaine Domning with helping them in numerous ways before and after surgery.

“A half-hour after I arrived home from the hospital, Elaine came to our home,” Bert remembers. “Elaine gave my wife helpful suggestions on how to care for me and what signs to watch for. She assured us that she was available anytime we needed her. She also read appropriate Scripture and prayed with us at that visit. After that she always saw me at church and showed a special interest in my recovery.”

Elaine Domning remembers jumping in with an offer of assistance when she heard that Bert was not well.

“The parish nursing role involves education, advocacy, referral and spiritual care,” Elaine says. “So I tried to be informed about congregation members who might need support due to illness, aging, grief, etc.”
Parish nursing was new to Elaine when she first heard about it in the early 1990s; her pastor encouraged her to attending a training course.

“I came away sensing God calling me to that type of ministry so, in 1996, I began my parish nursing education,” she says. “To churches not familiar with PN, I would say this program allows the church to expand the healing ministry that God has called us to.

“It is a complementary partnership with the pastoral leadership, not a competition or threat,” she continues. “It is a ministry that can expand the pastoral care role within the church and free up the pastor for other things. It opens up doors to ministry both within and outside of the church.”