HAMDEN –In only four years, the parish nurse program at St. Rita Parish has blossomed into an active, robust ministry that reaches out to some 2,600 parishioners, as well as the community.
Already, the growing ministry of 43 members, comprising 12 active and retired nurses, 10 allied health professionals and 21 lay volunteers, has offered flu shots, blood pressure screenings, mammograms, lectures, health care clinics, resources and counseling.
“It’s just fabulous,” said Cyndi Consoli, the energetic coordinator of the ministry, who has a nursing background. “It has really taken off, and it’s open to the community.”
She explained that the program started in 2012 with blood pressure screenings and became a parish ministry the following year.
“We do blood pressure screenings the first Sunday of every month after each Mass with two nurses, and we’re slammed,” said Ms. Consoli.
The first year, the ministry sponsored a health fair with 17 vendors and had raffles to raise money for the program. Among purchases it made is a small first-aid kit for the parish.
To expand, the ministry conducted a survey of parishioners to identify needs and began hosting lectures on topics including stress management and chiropractics and a popular talk on Alzheimer’s disease.
On April 5, the parish nurse program hosted speaker Peter J. Snyder, who earned a doctorate from Michigan State University. “Early Detection and Treatment of Alzheimers: The Eye is the Window into the Brain” was the title of his talk.
A world-renowned researcher in the field of Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Snyder is a professor of neurology at Brown University and vice president for research for the Lifespan Hospital System. He is conducting a research project to detect biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease by using a device that examines the eye. Early detection enables medical treatment to begin within 10 years prior to the onset of the disease.
Members of the ministry also mail bereavement cards, prepare folders for events, design posters, help people fill out registration forms and even follow up with parishioners after surgery.
Two ministry members recently were certified as bereavement counselors. And, after acquiring an automated external defibrillator with the support of the parish’s Eagle Scouts, the ministry began offering training on using the device in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest.
Ms. Consoli noted that during a sold-out LifeLine screening for cardiovascular disease, the medical team discovered that a participant had an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
“We found it and sent them immediately to have it checked out,” she said. “To save one person out of 95 is just fabulous.”
Other upcoming events include a free hearing test with an audiologist, pneumonia vaccinations and a May lecture by a physical therapist about how to prevent falls in the home.
“My passion for doing this came from an appointment I had with an endocrinologist,” said Ms. Consoli, who was completing nursing school when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and bilateral optic neuritis, which has left her completely blind in one eye. Later, Crohn’s disease led to pancreatitis because of a reaction to the Crohn’s medicine.
“I was in the office and saw information on a parish nurse program,” she said. That was all the motivation she needed. She went on to earn a degree in business administration and has since worked in hospital administration and higher education.
To promote the program, the ministry hosts a coffee with an information table once a year, distributes wallet medication cards, maintains an email list and can be followed on Facebook at st.ritachurchparishnurseprogram.