ROGERSVILLE – For Allison Shuppert, caring for the parishioners of First United Methodist Church is like caring for family.
After all, Shuppert’s parents both attend the church where she now serves as a parish nurse. The Rogersville church is the newest participant in Wellmont Health System’s parish nursing program.
“Parish nursing brings together two healing communities – the church and the hospital,” said Dr. Gary Metcalf, Wellmont’s director of pastoral care. “The nurses are part of the church staff and work for the congregations they serve, but Wellmont provides training, benefits and resources.”
The number of churches served by Wellmont parish nurses has more than tripled since the program’s inception in 1997. In total, Wellmont parish nurses serve 40 area church congregations.
First United Methodist is the first Rogersville church to participate in the program.
“Much of my job is visitation,” Shuppert said. “I visit homebound and shut-in church members, and I conduct screenings and health and wellness programs for the congregation.”
With a focus on prevention, wellness and nurturing, Shuppert serves as a health educator, a resource person, a volunteer coordinator and a visitation minister. While she does not practice hands-on invasive nursing care, she does perform assessments for physical, spiritual, nutritional and environmental needs.
She also refers parishioners to appropriate physicians and health and social agencies.
“The whole realm of nursing is so flexible, and a lot of people don’t realize that,” Shuppert said. “You don’t have to work in a doctor’s office or hospital. I am so blessed to be able to work in a church.
“I like the whole concept of parish nursing. It encompasses all of what nursing is about – the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. I believe that it really is nursing at its best.”