Church volunteers assist with congregations' health care needs - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Church volunteers assist with congregations' health care needs

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(WMC-TV) - Getting the health care you need may be as simple as showing up at church and talking with a faith-based community nurse.

Wyvonia Harris has been a nurse all of her life, so volunteering at her church as a faith community nurse was second nature.

"We instruct them, and then we follow up. These people see me every Sunday," said Harris.

Harris steers her congregation at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church-Westwood to get the health care they need and to make sure they are taking their medications and making their doctor's appointments.

"I've had people here, I say, 'Your blood pressure is up, are you taking you medicine?'" said Harris.

She says her patients respond, "Well my husband needed medicine so I broke my tablet in half."

"It's things like that we have to gently say, 'No that's not going to work,'" she added.

Part of Harris' training as a faith community nurse is through the Church Health Center and its International Parish Nurse Resource Center programs.

The Church Health Center educates volunteers like Harris, who then take their message of health and healing back to their churches.

Harris says it is a necessary service.

"We have people who don't have insurance," she said. "Our responsibility is to assess, and then send it to a referral."

Oftentimes, church members are referred to the Church Health Center, which provides health care services for the city under-insured and working poor.

"They think they can take care of themselves and people will tell you in a minute, 'I don't have money,'" explained Harris.

That is why Harris says faith community nursing is the now and the future of health care.

Faith community nurses from around the world will be in Memphis April 4 through April 7 for the Church Health Conference at the Cook Convention Center featuring Andrew Young.

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