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Giving Back Blog

  • Writer's pictureAscension Illinois Foundation

Nurses Integrate Faith and Health


An Oak Point nursing student working with a Faith Community Nurse administers a vaccine to a patient as part of a partnership with Ascension Resurrection.

A patient went from the hospital to a skilled nursing facility. When it was time for her to go home, she was confused by her discharge instructions, which listed out medications she needed along with steps to check her blood sugar and administer insulin.

Luckily, she did not have to figure out her instructions alone.

A faith community nurse — whom she was paired with through a partnership between her parish and Ascension Resurrection — took time to meet with and explain everything. The nurse found a caregiver from the Illinois Department of Aging and a community member to check in on the patient at home.

The patient was grateful for this extra support, which allowed her to follow her medication and insulin regimens without being readmitted to the hospital.

Preventing Illness, Promoting Wellness

Faith community nursing, previously known as parish nursing, is a specialty nursing practice that focuses on holistic care — including spiritual care — for patients in the context of their faith communities. This integrated approach prevents illness and promotes wellness by meeting people where they are; it has been around since the 1980s, when it started in Chicago’s northwest suburbs.

Today, more than 15,000 participating nurses span the globe. At Ascension Illinois, faith community nurses operate out of hospitals in Chicago and Aurora. They serve as counselors, advocates, educators, and sources of referrals and support.

“This is the holistic care that is our mission,” said Mariana Wrzosek, MPH, RN, regional director, community health integration.

Over 6,000 People Served

In fiscal year 2021, and thanks entirely to philanthropy, three faith community nurses at Ascension Resurrection served more than 6,600 people.

“These nurses have a huge impact,” said Wrzosek. “Some people can’t come to us. So, we are out there in the community where their needs are.”

The nurses provided thousands of COVID-19, blood pressure and colorectal cancer screenings. They visited patients at their homes, churches or care settings more than 1,500 times. They administered hundreds of vaccinations, including 85 COVID-19 vaccinations for people who were homebound. They made follow-up calls and checked on patients to make sure they had enough food.

Faith community nurses ran a community garden. They kept a food pantry stocked. They checked in with homebound adults and those who don’t have transportation. Their ministry prevented social isolation, depression, anxiety, chronic illness and hospital readmissions for some of the most vulnerable patients in the greater Chicago area — all thanks to the generosity of the community.

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Ascension Illinois Foundation

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