On the floor or in the field, Faith Community Nursing offers nurses a way to improve health for individuals from diverse faith backgrounds

Foundations of Faith Community Nursing, a course offered by the West Virginia University School of Nursing, teaches students how to improve health in faith communities, as well as to provide quality care to members of different faith backgrounds in the clinical care setting.

Biz Morrissey, an advanced practice nurse who took the Faith Community Nursing course a couple years after graduating, wanted to better understand how to help the community.

“In the hospital setting, I totally understood, but when it came to my faith community, where I was seeing health disparities, I didn’t really know where to start,” Morrissey said. “Faith Community Nursing helped me know what to do, how I can help and what are my limits.”

From walking groups and blood drives to vaccination information and blood pressure screenings, Morrissey learned how small moves can make a big difference. While Faith Community Nursing isn’t about diagnosing people in the field, it is about advocating for people, making connections, and helping guide them where they need to go.

“This has been one of the most eye-opening experiences for me—being able to help and answer questions for people, being able to advocate for them in a safe environment, and working among people from the same faith backgrounds, being able to understand their perspectives has been helpful,” Morrissey said. “It allows me to give back to my community and be understanding of how different religions and faiths can impact someone’s health.”

The course not only helped her understand how to provide a positive impact in her own faith community, but it made her more aware and respectful of the beliefs of other faiths, Morrissey said.

Senior nursing student Audrey Hannah agreed, noting that she plans to use what she learned in the Faith Community Nursing course when she joins the cardiovascular ICU unit at Ruby Memorial Hospital after graduation.

“In the ICU, people are going through a lot spiritually and they might be in distress,” Hannah said. “Along with getting the chaplain involved, I feel like I have a better means of therapeutic communication with them.”

Having a foundation of knowledge about specific religions and their practices will be beneficial, Hannah said. For example, she said she learned that in the Jewish faith, when a family member dies, a relative must stay with the body from death until burial.

“This course taught me to be cognizant of everyone, their culture and what their health literacy is,” Hannah said. “Going into different faith communities, you have to have a background of who these people are and how to provide care for them.”

In addition to her other courses at the School of Nursing, Hannah said this class helped her to become a more adaptive nurse—to be comfortable talking to patients and connecting with them. Hannah said she also appreciated seeing how this course can be applied to different types of nursing aside from floor nursing.

Hannah, who took the course in Fall 2021, spoke highly of Angel Smothers, an instructor for the course. She also noted the engaging discussion, interesting materials and manageable workload.

“Other students in the class were nurses from different areas in the state and abroad,” Hannah said. “That was really helpful, I thought, because I was on the discussion boards talking to experienced nurses. They told stories, gave situations they’ve experienced in the faith community nursing role and how they dealt with it.”

While the course is tailored to nurses, it is open to other individuals who work with faith communities, such as chaplains, pastors, social workers and others. However, please note that only RNs who complete the course can use the title Faith Community Nurse.

The next course will be held March 7, 2022 through April 29, 2022, all online, and will cost $400. For those who need financial assistance, scholarships are available to nurses living and working in rural parts of West Virginia. Additionally, 40 hours of continuing professional development are being offered.

The deadline to register is March 7. To learn more or to register for the class, visit the WVU School of Nursing website.

The WVU School of Nursing is accredited as a provider of Nursing Continuing Professional Development by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.


CONTACT: Wendy Holdren
Director of Communications and Marketing
WVU School of Nursing
304-581-1772; wendy.holdren@hsc.wvu.edu