This article was originally published in The Bellingham Herald on October 25, 2015.
LeAna Osterman is always on the lookout for people to help. It might be a neighbor, someone she meets at the grocery store, or a referral from her congregation at Lynden’s Sonlight Community Christian Reformed Church.
Osterman, a retired nurse and hospital administrator, is one of more than 200 mostly volunteer faith community nurses and health ministers working across Whatcom, Skagit, Island and San Juan counties.
Formerly called parish nurses, most faith community nurses are retired, but still licensed, registered nurses. Osterman describes their goal as helping community members in the “care of body, mind and spirit.”
Although each nurse is supported by one of 90 church congregations across the region, the care they offer isn’t limited to church members. About 75 percent of the people they serve are seniors.
“We are happy to assist anyone, whether they’re in a congregation or not,” Osterman says. “We just see the opportunity to help someone and take it on.”
The nurses are supplemented by health ministers, lay members of their congregations who receive training to work with church pastoral staff and the nurse to help individuals and families, or offer programs to the community.