My Learning Journey

A Pastoral Care Nurse or Parish Nurse is a qualified nurse who has undertaken (or will undertake) some theological study in order to serve in holistic ministry in a congregation or church-related school or agency.

When this ministry was first introduced in Australia, courses were offered through (then) Luther Seminary, including a Graduate Diploma in Theology, as well as short courses. A new course was then developed, ‘An Introduction to Pastoral Care Nursing’, by the Lutheran Nurses Association of Australia. This course was written by Robert and Lynette Wiebusch and was presented in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.

In 2012 six nurses from Goroka in PNG travelled to Adelaide to attend a course which had been especially prepared, with help from Margaret Voigt and the late Pastor Len Tscharke who had both served in Papua New Guinea. The course was then presented in Goroka in 2013 and 2014.

A Distance Education version has since been developed to make the course accessible for individual nurses, equipping them for service in a Pastoral Care Nursing role. Two further adaptations have also been made – a version for the Parish Nurse Council of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and an international version for nurses in various countries.

Jennifer Khoo-Chua, from Bedok Lutheran Church, Singapore, has recently completed the Introduction to Pastoral Care Nursing course. She said:

‘I first heard of the Lutheran Parish Nurses International (LPNI) Scholarship 2020 from my husband [but]… it was not my intention to go through this LPNI study. When I first heard of the LPNI Scholarship 2020 to Australia, I was so excited because it means to widen my nursing horizon with other nurses. I was connected to Dr. Marcy Schnorr, and later Rev Robert Wiebusch. Due to the pandemic reason, the trip was postponed. Then Rev Robert introduced me to something else: an Introduction to Pastoral Care Nursing study course.

I was not very keen initially, because firstly I have been out of school for 30 years. There goes my rusty brain! Secondly, I am not good in writing papers. But somehow, Rev Robert managed to convince me that it will be an interesting learning journey. And indeed, it was!

It was not easy for me initially. I could not focus on the reading materials that Rev Robert emailed over. I kept asking myself what have I read, and the question disrupted my concentration. I must give credit to Rev Robert who is so patient with me. He sent me a sample answer and coached me along the way.

As I journeyed further into the study, it has taught me that what I have learnt in the nursing school is not only applicable to my secular work, but also applicable to the church community. The study gives me a broader knowledge of how to ‘nurse’ a patient, not just physically or mentally, but spiritually as well (leading them to God).   

I especially enjoyed reading the book titled ‘The Parish Nurse’, by Granger E. Westberg. It is indeed an eye-opening book. I felt that nurses can do more than just being a nurse. A Parish Nurse is a holistic calling from God to serve His people, just like He has come to serve the people on earth.

I hope what I have shared here will encourage more nurses or layman to take up the course. You may not be a certified or trained nurse, but you can learn together with someone who is trained or certified’.

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