Core Competencies

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A parish nurse is a registered nurse with specialized knowledge, who is called to ministry and affirmed by a faith community to promote health, healing and wholeness. In order to practice safely and effectively in health ministry, the parish nurse should be able to demonstrate competence in a defined set of attitudes, knowledge and skills. These are identified below as Parish Nursing Core Competencies. This document is intended as a guideline to persons involved in:

  • Discerning the call to parish nurse ministry
  • Developing curricula for basic parish nursing education
  • Recruiting and selecting parish nurses
  • Identifying continuing educational needs for parish nurses

for Basic Parish Nurse Education Programs

1. Current standing as a Registered Nurse (Baccalaureate Degree in Nursing Preferred)
Generally, the elements covered in a baccalaureate program that would be required for parish nursing would include:

  • Ability to assess and intervene with individuals, families, groups and communities
  • Ability to carry out nursing care in a holistic way with skills in assessment and intervention in physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual dimensions of people's health
  • A focus on health promotion knowledge and skills with opportunities to practice health promotion within various acute care and community settings
  • Broad basis for nursing practice which has generally come from the study of non-nursing courses which have enhanced the understanding of people and the complexity of health and health promotion (sociology, psychology, the sciences, the humanities, etc.)
  • Ability to carry forward a community assessment and to conceptualize a parish community within a broader community context
  • Knowledge and skills in leadership, critical reflective thinking, and the utilization of research findings in clinical nursing practice
  • Legal issues, standards of practice, code of ethics, knowledge about boundary/sexual abuse issues

2. Orientation to Parish Nursing

  • Knowledge of the history and philosophy of parish nursing as a unique specialty practice area within nursing
  • Knowledge of a conceptual framework for nursing in a faith community
  • Understanding and appreciation of "integrating faith and health" as a key dimension of parish nurse ministry functioning
  • Knowledge of the role and functions of the parish nurse
  • Ability to conceptualize and articulate how to establish a parish nursing ministry within a faith community

3. Spiritual Maturity and Theological Reflection

  • Ability to draw from and reflect upon one's personal experience of faith, spirituality, theology and religion
  • Understanding as well as appreciation that parish nurses are professionals who are called to a ministry, and have the ability to articulate this reality
  • Basic understanding of theology including an understanding of the scriptural and doctrinal foundations of the faith community with regard to health, wholeness, illness, death, healing and health promotion
  • Ability to connect one's personal experiences of faith, spirituality, theology and religion with the broader disciplines of one's chosen faith tradition and the field of academic theology
  • Ability to work out congruence of the faith community’s ethical principles with one’s nursing ethical principles

4. Personal/Interpersonal Skills

  • Sense of call and motivation for ministry in a parish, congregation and/or faith community setting
  • Awareness of and ability to fulfill personal growth needs; self-caring
  • Ability to utilize one's life story and personality in creative and meaningful ways in relationships with others.Ability to effectively utilize one's personal and role authorities to enhance quality life for others
  • Knowledge and skill in the areas of active listening, grief counselling, health counselling, and conflict resolution
  • Ability to engage others in conversation about their faith and faith development including being able to share prayerfully together

5. Teaching/Facilitation

  • Ability to conceptualize and communicate the meanings of health, healing, wholeness, and health promotion as these relate to persons in a faith community setting
  • Knowledge of and ability to implement principles of adult education
  • Ability to provide education about holistic health and the parish nursing ministry

6. Worship

  • Ability to participate in personal, interpersonal and group prayer within a particular faith tradition
  • Understanding of the core elements of a worship service, and an ability to plan and participate in worship
  • Recognition of diversity within worship settings, and an ability to structure meaningful responses to diverse worship needs (e.g. children's time, use of silence, use of drama, etc.)
  • Ability to develop and implement ritual/prayer/worship opportunities with individuals and in small group settings
  • Ability to speak publicly

7. Faith Community Context

  • Understanding of the principles and procedures of church polity and management within the uniqueness of a particular faith tradition
  • Ability to conceptualize and develop a comprehensive job description for the parish nurse
  • Ability to discern similarities, differences, and complementarities among various ministry settings, roles, and functions

8. Collaboration

  • Knowledge of group process and ability to work within group settings in response to different purposes, needs and/or tasks
  • Knowledge of and ability to collaborate with others in ways that maximize and value each person’s contributions
  • Knowledge of professional and community networking opportunities
  • Ability to take the initiative and a leadership role when appropriate

9. Management

  • Knowledge of the health care system (local/regional structures), with special attention to community health
  • Knowledge of community resources (local, regional)
  • Knowledge of writing grant proposals
  • Skills in budgeting and financial accountability
  • Knowledge of appropriate and confidential documentation
  • Knowledge of reporting tools for accountability
  • Knowledge of tools to evaluate personal practice and the ministry effectiveness

10. Practicum

  • Opportunity to integrate theory with practice in a parish nursing setting with the support of a faith community and under the supervision of an experienced parish nurse
    * Practicum will continue until the faith community representative, the parish nurse supervisor, and the parish nurse agree that the parish nurse demonstrates core learning competencies.

11. Continuing Education

  • Ability to identify individual areas of learning challenges in professional practice and personal growth and competency
  • Ability to plan and/or select experiences to expand knowledge
  • Ability to reflect with peers and mentors on one’s practice and vocational direction
  • Ability to evaluate learning outcomes


Community: An organization of families and individuals who share common values, religious doctrine, faith practices and/or geography.
Environment: The physical, psychological, cultural, societal and spiritual surroundings.
Faith: Belief and trust in God and religious doctrine.
Health: Biblical shalom - wholeness -salvation: dwelling at peace and in harmony in all relationships: within oneself, with God, with other people and with the created natural world. 
Health Promotion: That activity directed toward increasing the level of well-being and achieving God-given potential.
Individual: A unique human person as a holistic being: spiritual, physical, psychological, social, familial, created by the Divine and deserving to be treated with dignity, integrity, confidentiality, and protected from misinformation and misrepresentation. 
Ministry: Vocation of service in obedient response to the love and guidance of God, often formalized by a faith community.
Spirituality: The universal human desire for transcendence, a desire to be connected with something or someone beyond and greater than ourselves; the desire to find meaning and purpose in life; the aspect of ourselves which is most like God; the bond that connects us to God, the Creator, from which the true meaning of life comes.
Spiritual Assessment: An intentional investigation of how a client perceives his/her relationship with God, including the working out of it in his/her context, and resources/factors which support or interfere with it.

© Copyright 2004 The Canadian Association for Parish Nursing Ministry

The Canadian Association for Parish Nursing Ministry (CAPNM) Standards
of Practice and Core Competencies may be copied for personal and
professional purposes. They may not be altered in any way. The
following statement must appear on the copies: "CAPNM Standards of
Practice and Core Competencies 2007 have been copied with permission of
the Canadian Association for Parish Nursing Ministry and have not been
altered in any way."

Furthermore, the parish nurse gives assurance that his/her ongoing practice is safe and effective by following the established standards that follow.

Parish Nursing Ministry

Each parish nurse associates spiritual beliefs and practices with all aspects of an individual’s life and health. The parish nurse uses specific nursing strategies to provide pastoral and spiritual care.

Each parish nurse:

  • Engages in spiritual growth practices for development of his/her own spirituality
  • Demonstrates valuing and respect for individuals in their care and colleagues with whom they work
  • Assists individuals to clarify and express their spiritual values, beliefs, emotions, fears and hopes and nurtures their spiritual practices
  • Consciously upholds hopefulness, vision, meaning and purpose in the lives of individuals
  • Facilitates the pastoral conversation through presence, active listening skills, empathy and commitment
  • Demonstrates sensitivity and respect for different religious and cultural beliefs or traditions and the ways spiritual needs are met
  • Encourages and incorporates spiritual practices to support health and wholeness and from which strength and hope may be derived (i.e. prayer, sacraments, visitation, reading scripture or spiritual books, etc)
  • Supports the community of care through life transitions and challenges (grief, loss, illness, death, suffering, crisis, etc)
  • Enables provision of care with respect for and within the framework of the congregational expression of theological beliefs, values and healing practices of the recipient of care

Each parish nurse views the individual as a unified whole of body, mind and spirit. In pursuing the goal of optimal health, the parish nurse recognizes that faith and health are clearly linked and that spiritual care is central to promoting holistic wellness. The parish nurse utilizes specific nursing strategies for promoting health with individuals, the congregation and the community. 

Each parish nurse:

  • Maintains a focus on holistic health as a goal for health and well-being
  • Collaborates with members of the pastoral team and other partners in conducting holistic assessments
  • Creates plans and interventions to address identified needs within the congregation including resource referral, education, support group facilitation, spiritual care and counselling
  • Identifies and seeks to address primary causes of illness and disease as well as symptoms
  • Collaborates with individuals and congregations to assist them in taking responsibility for maintaining and improving their health
  • Assists individuals and congregations to identify their strengths, describe their hopes and develop responses to threats to health and healing
  • Recognizes the power and place of spirituality in the promotion of health

Each parish nurse actively incorporates healing practices to promote health and healing. Parish nurses deliver care that is collaborative and form partnerships that connect individuals, clergy, pastoral care teams, health professionals and volunteers to create relationships that support health and healing.

Each parish nurse:

  • Identifies the strengths and resources of the community of care to determine resources for health promotion
  • Works within the polity, structure and values of the faith community to identify needs, perspectives and expectations with respect to accomplishing individual/community goals
  • Establishes community links designed to enhance access to health resources and facilitate healing relationships
  • Refers to community health resources (internal and external) considering readiness, values and consent of the individual / community
  • Incorporates group facilitation, effective communication and leadership skills in consultation, assessment and planning
  • Collaborates as a team member with health care providers, clergy, and volunteer support systems on effective ways to meet identified needs and validates the contributions of all members of the team

Each parish nurse assists and supports individuals, families and groups to access health services, knowledge and resources in a practice setting that respects ethnic and cultural diversity, individual choice, values and beliefs. The parish nurse recognizes and supports vulnerable populations and advocates for systemic change that increases community responsiveness to individual and community needs.

Each parish nurse:

  • Advocates for appropriate resource allocation to facilitate access to health and health services
  • Invites individuals and groups to identify their own health issues and supports them in developing skills for self advocacy
  • Is an ambassador for parish nursing and parish nursing education
  • Participates with internal and external community partners to advance health and social justice issues
  • Supports workplace wellness for the parish nurse and the pastoral care team

Each parish nurse is accountable to the individuals and community she/he serves. The parish nurse may or may not practice independently of a health care agency and may be the only health professional in the practice environment. As a professional, the parish nurse is responsible for the quality, impact and development of his/her own practice and for maintaining professional competence.

Each parish nurse:

  • Is accountable to maintain appropriate therapeutic boundaries
  • Systematically evaluates the quality and effectiveness of his/her own parish nursing practice using reflection and feedback to implement changes
  • Documents parish nursing activities and interventions according to established standards
  • Supports the advancement of parish nursing practice through research and participation in parish nursing networks
  • Maintains active registration with the provincial nursing regulatory body
  • Actively identifies learning needs and seeks opportunities to enhance personal knowledge, growth and development
  • Assumes primary responsibility for maintaining fitness to practice

Glossary of Terms

  1. fitness to practice - having all the qualities and capabilities of a member relevant to his/her capacity to practice as a nurse.
  2. community of care – refers to whomever the nurse is working with whether individual, family, group, community, congregation/faith community, etc. This term is intended to reflect the diverse nature of the work and settings for parish nurses.
  3. pastoral conversation – talking together for the purpose of nurturing the spirit.

© Copyright 2004 The Canadian Association for Parish Nursing Ministry

The Canadian Association for Parish Nursing Ministry (CAPNM) Standards
of Practice and Core Competencies may be copied for personal and
professional purposes. They may not be altered in any way. The
following statement must appear on the copies: "CAPNM Standards of
Practice and Core Competencies 2007 have been copied with permission of
the Canadian Association for Parish Nursing Ministry and have not been
altered in any way."

© CAPNM 2012