Faith community nurses treat mind, body and spirit

The largest offering of the Community Health Ministry at Holy Family Church is its Community Health and Safety Fair. The 17th annual event will take place Sept. 24 on Holy Family’s campus, 3938 Poplar Level Road. A past event is pictured above. (Photo Special to The Record)

Debbie White and Kathy Gardner, national board-certified nurses, lead an effort to care for the spiritual, physical and mental health of individuals in their community.

As faith community nurses, they lead the Community Health Ministry at Holy Family Church, 3938 Poplar Level Road, where they are parishioners. 

“The ministry focuses on the promotion of wellness through prayer, education, referrals and screenings,” said White in a recent interview. It serves the Camp Taylor area and surrounding communities.

The ministry’s largest offering is a yearly Community Health and Safety Fair. The 17th annual event will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 24 in Holy Family’s Saffin Center. The fair usually draws hundreds of people, said Gardner. 

“It’s larger than any other health fair and it’s free,” she said.

White, Gardner and a team of about 35 people carry out the health ministry. There are about six other nurses on the team plus other individuals who aren’t medical professionals. 

“The only requirement to join is to have a sincere desire to promote health and wellness of mind, body and spirit,” said White. Faith community nursing requires us to “weave spirituality through our practice. Prayer has to be involved in everything we do.”

“You need mental health to improve your physical health and vice versa. The spiritual part is walking side by side where they are,” she said.

For Gardner, it’s a holistic approach. 

“You can’t separate them, we’re mind, body and spirit,” she said.

The upcoming health fair is open to the public and offers more than 60 exhibitors, as well as medication disposal, health screenings, educational information, and flu and COVID-19 vaccines from Walgreens. Norton Healthcare, Baptist Health and UofL Health will be on-site, too. 

“No matter what you come for, you’ll find more,” Gardner said.

Though the fair is a large event, the nurses said much of the ministry’s work is low-key.

They provide a myriad of services including:

  • Blood pressure clinics
  • Mental health seminars
  • Safety and self-defense workshops
  • Blood drives
  • First aid training
  • Grief ministry

They also spend time with people individually, to find out what they need and how they can best serve them, they said.

They often hear from individuals who need help following release from the hospital, they said. A patient may need help understanding why they’re taking certain medications; family members may need advice about how to care for someone following a hospital stay; or people may need help reaching a home health nurse.

“We do a lot of counseling and referrals to specialists,” said Gardner. “Sometimes I accompany them especially if the news might be difficult.” 

“Walking side by side is what the ministry is about,” said White. “Our role is to listen or just sit next to them holding their hand. Sometimes we guide them. We find support groups for them.”

Ruby Thomas
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Ruby Thomas
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