Posted by William Nunnelley on 2009-04-20

Samford University's Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing is the new home of the Congregational Health program that began at Baptist Health System in the early 2000s. The program works with churches to promote healthy lifestyles and to prevent or minimize illnesses among members.

"The addition of the Congregational Health program this spring enhances our commitment to the mission of Samford University by strengthening partnerships with the faith and health communities," said Dr. Nena F. Sanders, Samford nursing school Dean. "The commitment of the Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing to service, specifically as it relates to faith-based medical initiatives, spans more than two decades. Samford is the perfect home for the Congregational Health program."

The Samford nursing school has been actively involved in promoting congregational health ministries through parish nursing for a decade. In 1999, it became one of the first 50 nursing schools in the nation to offer the course, Basic Preparation for Parish Nurses.

"The relationship between faith and health has gained considerable validation in recent years, while congregational health ministries have spread with increasing momentum throughout the country," said Dr. Gretchen McDaniel, who heads Samford's continuing nursing education program.

Debbie Duke, who led the Congregational Health program at Baptist Health System, moved to Samford with the program in March. During the past six years, she has helped 116 churches of various denominations in 22 Alabama counties establish health ministries.

The program helps churches offer training sessions on health subjects and schedule health screenings and fairs. It offers a speaker's bureau, publishes a quarterly newsletter and holds quarterly focus group meetings for churches involved in health ministries.

Duke, a 1995 Samford nursing graduate, became one of the first nurses to complete the Basic Preparation for Parish Nursing course and was one of five nurses to pilot parish nursing when the Congregational Health program was established at Baptist Health System.

"A key figure in the health ministry movement is the faith community nurse, or parish nurse," said Dr. McDaniel. She noted that the American Nurses Association recognizes faith community nursing as a specialty practice and professional model of health ministry.

"The faith community nurse focuses on the intentional care of the spirit as part of the process of promoting holistic health, and preventing or minimizing illness in a faith community," she said.

In addition to heading the Congregational Health program, Duke will provide leadership for parish nursing as well as palliative care, end-of-life and ethics programs, faculty and student health-related ministry and mission experiences, and congregational health and grant initiatives.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.