Core Competencies

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

Guide For Parish Nursing Core Competencies

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 meaning 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 policy 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 and differences 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.

Note: 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.