Parish Nurse Corner

By Allison Nass BSN, RN, WELSNA communications coordinator

Q: Is it necessary for parish nurses to have liability insurance?

Lisa LeBlanc MSN, RN, CNL, the instructor for the Faith Community Nursing course offered by Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, Wis., stated, “The best resource for all parish nurses (or Faith Community Nurses) is the American Nurses Association’s Faith Community Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice book. I have the third edition of the book and having read the previous editions and this one, there is no specific information regarding liability insurance for parish nurses.” She goes on to say, to her knowledge, there is no formal recommendation by a governing body on the topic of liability insurance for the parish nurse.

We also posed this question to the insurance group who provides insurance to Lord of Love Lutheran Church in DeForest, Wis. They replied that their insurance policy covers “pastoral counseling” but does not include any medical advice given to an individual or group outside of the scope of psychological or spiritual counseling. This means that any type of medical education, counseling, or encouragement is not covered in their insurance policy. The representative recommended that the parish nurse seek to hold his or her own insurance policy.

Sue Bolha RN, the parish nurse coordinator at David’s Star, Jackson, Wis., told us that although she carries liability insurance, she does not require the nurses who help out with their program to do so. She has discussed this issue with the parish’s insurance provider and was told that it is not mandatory for each nurse to hold liability insurance as long as the nurses abide by the four general roles of parish nursing, which are health education, health counseling, volunteer coordination, and community liaison, and if the nurses provide proper documentation when needed.

So what is the answer to our question? No, it is not mandatory for a parish nurse to carry his or her own liability insurance. However, it is a topic that each parish nurse should discuss with his or her parish so that jointly, they can come to an agreement on the topic. The insurance provider for the parish should be contacted to assess if the service of the parish nurse is covered under the current parish’s insurance plan or if the provider encourages the nurse to seek his or her own liability insurance as policies can vary from one insurance provider to another. Once the parish and the nurse come to an agreement on whether liability insurance should be carried by the nurse, they can also discuss if the nurse will provide his or her own insurance policy or if the parish will cover the cost of the insurance. Once these decisions have been settled, the parish nurse can continue his or her important work with peace of mind and a clear conscious. God’s blessings on your work!

Do you have a question you would like addressed in the Parish Nurse Corner? Send your question to WELSnurses@wels.net!