Gannon University Nurses Pioneer New Specialization
Posted: January 7, 2014
There are school nurses, hospital nurses, private-duty nurses,
hospice nurses and flight nurses, among many other specialties. Add
to these familiar categories the emerging specialty of faith
Just ask Diann Cooper and Gary Berringer, both members of the
faculty at Gannon University's Villa Maria School of Nursing. They
became interested in the discipline when they attended the
Foundations of Faith Community Nursing Program in Pittsburgh two
Cooper described the Pittsburgh program as, "a training program
for nurses who were interested in a more spiritual spin on nursing.
That spiritual aspect is near and dear to my heart, so I went
through the training so that I could also train other nurses or
people to start programs in their own churches."
The nurses learn to work as members of a pastoral team,
assisting the members of a faith community to maintain and/or
regain wholeness in body, mind, and spirit. The goal is to combine
the scientific knowledge that licensed, registered nurses have
acquired with an additional focus on the intentional care of the
spirit. Faith community nurses employ the nursing process to
determine the needs that others in the faith community might have,
and then assist them in finding and accessing resources to meet
Cooper is a leader in a partnership of faith community nurses in
Erie who meet regularly to advance the discipline in the area--
promoting the concept, sharing ideas, and providing support for the
three-dozen or so local practitioners.
"There's a healing portion of this, a huge prayer portion, and a
blessing portion where you're commissioned and you go forth,"
Cooper said of the training. "It's a very intense thing-not
cognitively, because the content of the classes is not foreign to
nurses, but you get close to the spirits of the people in the room.
You can feel the energy, and we love seeing each other and helping
each other. It's just cool!"
Cool enough that at Cooper's suggestion, Gannon University is
collaborating with Saint Vincent Health Center and Mercy Parish
Nurse and Health Ministry Program to offer a six-day Foundations of
Faith Community Nursing course in Erie. The program includes
training during which spirituality, professionalism (communication
and ethics), holistic health and community are discussed, as well
as healing and sending-forth ceremonies.
Future plans include additional training programs and partnering
with Saint Vincent Health Center's new Health Ministries Resource
"I'm a teacher and I just love to teach," Cooper said. "I have
found my niche in the world, and I love to serve, teaching others
to serve others in what is their second home. My bigger family is
my church, so the fact that I can be of service and train others to
do the same brings a smile to my face and makes me feel as though
I'm accomplishing something."
To learn more about Faith Community Nursing go to