Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Parish nursing is a community-based subspecialty practice of nursing. The parish nurse (PN) melds spiritual care with nursing practice to wholistically address the needs of parishioners and faith communities. PNs work with other health care providers and organizations, as well as lay and professional church leaders to successfully develop, organize, and lead health promoting and spiritually healing activities. Empowerment of PNs is necessary to achieve positive outcomes of PN directed initiatives. Empowerment occurs through supportive and nurturing environments, as well as access to resources, information and power. However, multiple professional demands, interpersonal conflicts, and lack of adequate resources have created disempowering environments for PNs. These barriers may be further exacerbated by the lack of empowerment structures within faith communities for PNs.

As parish nursing is a relatively new specialty practice of nursing, little is known about the organizational structures of faith communities and the placement of parish nursing within the organization. Using a quantitative, descriptive, correlational design, the researcher explored the concept of structural empowerment with nurses in their PN roles within faith communities. The majority of respondents were well-seasoned nurses, but relatively new PN practitioners, who practiced as unpaid staff within a congregational-based model of practice. Similar to findings of staff nurses in hospital settings, school nurses and nurse clinicians, the researcher found that parish nurses expressed a moderate perception of structural empowerment in their role as PNs.

Nurses who had more years of nursing experience reported that they had greatest access to opportunities and to information within the faith community setting. PNs who received a salary for their PN work reported more access to formal and informal power, opportunity, information and support than PNs who were unpaid. In addition, salaried PNs worked significantly more hours per week and reported using a position description more often than unpaid PNs.

The outcomes of this research will aid in the understanding of empowerment within this unique setting, and will assist with the development and improvement of policies and structures related to empowerment within faith communities.

Included in

Psychology Commons