Parish Nursing in St. Louis was created in 1989 through the efforts of Rev. Dr. Richard Ellerbrake, CEO of Deaconess Health System, to commemorate the centennial of the founding of the Deaconess Sisterhood and the Deaconess mission in St. Louis.
In 1990. the organization started to take shape as a program coordinator, Jean Brugger, RN, was hired. Jean worked at establishing the Parish Nursing program in surrounding churches, and in September of 1990, Gethsemane Lutheran Church, ELCA, was the first church to become a part of the program.
In March of 1995, the Deaconess Parish Nurse Program was recognized by the Council for Health and Human Service Ministries of the United Church of Christ as “Innovative Program of the Year.” Also in 1995, the Deaconess Parish Nurse Program, in cooperation with the Archbishop’s Commission on Community Health, formed a professional organization for parish nurses in the St. Louis area. The organization, known as the Greater St. Louis Parish Nurse Network (GSLPNN), provides opportunities for continuing education and networking with other parish nurses.
In 1997, the Deaconess Parish Nurse Program became a part of the Deaconess Foundation, the health foundation that received financial assets from the sale of Deaconess Incarnate Word Health System. In May 2001, the Parish Nurse Program became a separate entity, Deaconess Parish Nurse Ministries, L.L.C (DPNM).
In addition to providing financial support to churches in the St. Louis metropolitan area; Deaconess became the center of parish nurse basic preparation in the St. Louis region.
The first orientation was held in September 1990 for Deaconess Hospital employees and volunteers. In November 1993, the orientation was opened to nurses not affiliated with the health system. Seventy nurses participated in the program at Deaconess Central Hospital between 1990 and 1997.
By 2000, the forty-hour continuing education program was being offered 7 times a year in St. Louis, Memphis, Jefferson City and Carbondale by DPNM. More than 500 nurses completed the course through DPNM between 1997 and 2001, for which credit could be obtained through a partnership with the Department of Nursing at Webster University.
Deaconess Parish Nurse Ministries also has been active within the United Church of Christ denomination, providing leadership in forming the UCC Parish Nurse Network.
On January 1, 2001, Deaconess Parish Nurse Ministries, LLC became the home of the International Parish Nurse Resource Center, and sponsored the 16th Annual Westberg Parish Nurse Symposium in September 2001. The International Parish Nurse Resource Center has over 80 Educational Partners around the United States and abroad, and is a leader in parish nurse education.
On May 9, 2003, the designation, “Deaconess Parish Nurse Ministry Network” was adopted by the Board of Managers to distinguish the administrative portion of Deaconess Parish Nurse Ministries, LLC from the local network of parish nurses. Currently, Deaconess Parish Nurse Ministry Network has covenants with over 22 churches to provide parish nurses. Denominations represented include the United Church of Christ, Episcopal, Lutheran (ELCA and Missouri Synod), Roman Catholic, and Christian Methodist Episcopal, as well as five faith-based agencies serving children and families.
In 2011, the assets and operations from the International Parish Nurse Resource Center was acquired by Church Health Center in Memphis, TN. Currently, the Deaconess Parish Nurse Ministries consists of the Deaconess Parish Nurse Network.
Through strategic assessment with a keen eye toward health disparities that persist in the St. Louis region and against the backdrop of swiftly changing health care landscape, Deaconess Faith Community Nurse Ministries has crafted a community-based model of “faith community nursing” focused in areas of extreme need.