The opportunity to attend the 2023 International Nursing Congress in Montreal this past July is one not soon to be forgotten. Joining some 6000 other nurses from over 140 countries around the world was at times overwhelming, at other times quite awe inspiring. Keynote speakers brought new insights on many topics and the research shared from the countless e-poster presentations was innovative and amazingly varied. Being there renewed my pride in the wonder-filled profession of nursing.

One recurring theme I heard in talks was that of “loneliness”. It’s role was discussed formally in some relatively predictable places – for example in mental health challenges. But it was also discussed in others that I was somewhat surprised to hear – outpatients living with COPD, patients managing long-term diabetes challenges, and its role in the lives of those in a CV rehab program.

It was also casually included in discussions on social justice, social determinants of health, and another on health policy. Rather broad don’t you think?

Another morning a speaker challenged us all to stop ‘whining and start acting’. From that message, I understood that nursing needed to get busy asking for exactly what it needed. Another speaker wanted us to completely understand the economics behind our requests.

So here is a question – what does Parish Nursing need in this new peri-COVID world? And what are all the ramifications of that need? Do we have a role in addressing loneliness in our society?

According to a Statistics Canada survey conducted in 2020 “the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have affected Canadians religiosity to a certain extent, but it did not drastically disrupt religious practice and affiliation. The risks associated with the pandemic and the public health measures in effect may have led the population to reduce his participation in group religious activities, with certain groups being more affected than others. Involvement with religious organizations has also declined. In contrast, the pandemic does not seem to have had an impact on engaging in religious or spiritual activities on ones own or religious affiliation.”

So, people are still engaged in their own religious or spiritual affiliation but just not with religious organizations/activities. So how will churches endure? How will our roles survive? It is time to get creative or at least start thinking differently about how to do our jobs. Should our expertise be shared amongst several churches? Is an independent practice model the way to go? How about being affiliated with an agency in need (i.e., care home, hospice, other religious community organizations, etc.)? Should we be engaging more online with our clients – if that is their preference?

The way I see it, we have clients experiencing loneliness and they need our help. And we have willing and capable nurses who need and want to be paid a fair wage. But we also need to learn new skills and new ways of doing our work. Are we willing to do that to meet the challenges that lie ahead? And what if Parish Nursing Alberta applied the idea that Parish Nurses would address loneliness in society as a new pillar of our role?

Parish nurses are the right people, at the right time, with the right solution (skills) to address the loneliness epidemic.

I welcome your comments to me at [email protected].

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