This article was included in the “Your Community, Your Self” Community Benefits Report for Spring 2012. View the complete index of articles and content, or download the full PDF (four pages).

Education: Congregational Nursing

To inquire about starting a Congregational Nursing program at your place of worship, contact Patsy Hannah at or (864) 725-4677.

Started 16 years ago, Congregational Nursing allows Self Regional Healthcare and area churches to work in partnership to enhance the health and wellness of the congregations they serve.

Started 16 years ago, Congregational
Nursing allows Self Regional Healthcare and area churches to work in partnership to enhance the health and wellness of the congregations they serve.

Congregational Nursing, part of Self Regional Healthcare’s Prevention and Wellness Services program since 1996, is a partnership in which the hospital and local churches work together to enhance the health and wellness of the congregations they serve.

This is accomplished by:

  • supporting the church in reclaiming its role in healing and caring ministries
  • focusing on the congregation’s health needs and concern
  • educating the congregation on health care issues and chronic diseases
  • emphasizing wellness of the body, mind, and spirit

One manner in which Congregational Nursing touches the lives of patients and families is in dealing with end of life issues and the death process. It seems most families, even those with frequent experience in dealing with death, can use support when the end of life comes for one of their own family members.

Lee Robirds, RN, BSN, is a Congregational Nurse with Main Street United Methodist Church. Last fall, she was called upon to help minister to a family in a way they had not expected.

“Mrs. Billie Harley was the primary caregiver for her husband,” Mrs. Robirds recalled. “She believed it was her honor, privilege and duty to care for him. Everyone was so worried about Mr. Harley’s declining health that little did they realize he would not be the first to go.”

One morning Mrs. Harley was discovered on the floor of her bedroom and rushed to the Emergency Care Center at Self Regional Medical Center. A CT revealed she had sustained a brain injury secondary to her fall. Surgery would be required for her to have a chance at recovering.

“The pastor was able to be with the family during Mrs. Harley’s surgery, but he was scheduled to be out of town for the weekend,” Mrs. Robirds noted. “In the pastor’s absence, I am the default staff person in the event of someone needing attention, not only for Congregational Nursing, but also for lesser pastoral duties.”

The patient made it through surgery and was moved to the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. During a visit, Mrs. Robirds spent time with the family, explained in the most simple terms possible what was occurring with Mrs. Harley and why. Since the family members believed she was responding to simple commands, they held hope for her recovery.

It soon became apparent Mrs. Harley was in a decline. Her family remained in shock, hard-pressed to believe she was ill.

When a relative called Mrs. Robirds to report Mrs. Harley was not doing well, she offered to stop by the hospital for a visit. The patient was totally unresponsive by the time Mrs. Robirds arrived at the hospital.

“The family was sitting in the room, looking anxiously at Mrs. Harley, not knowing what to do or to expect,” Mrs. Robirds recollected. “As one family member said, ‘We don’t deal with this end of the death and dying process. We just don’t know what to do.’ ”

The Congregational Nurse remained with the Harley family, answering questions until a Hospice nurse arrived. The patient’s husband was brought to the hospital so he could
see his wife one last time.

“I was able to pray with Mr. and Mrs. Harley and their two children for the last time as a family,” Mrs. Robirds said. “Mrs. Harley died a day and a half later with her family by her bedside.”

Having a Congregational Nurse present helped the Harley family not only understand the physical aspects of their loved one’s illness, but also in offering spiritual support, said Carol Harley, the patient’s granddaughter-in-law.

“It was a sudden situation we were dealing with, but Lee was there to help us understand and deal with it,” she said. “We knew she was there to answer questions, and we knew she
was also there to pray for us. Just her presence meant so much.”

List of Churches participating in Congregational Nursing Programs

Abbeville FBC
Abbeville Main St. UMC
Amick Grove Pentecostal Holiness, Saluda
Beulah Baptist, Greenwood
Cold Springs Mennonite, Abbeville
Cross Hill First Baptist, Laurens County
First Presbyterian, Greenwood
Flint Hill Missionary Baptist, Troy
Grace UMC, Abbeville
Harris Baptist, Greenwood
Immanuel Lutheran, Greenwood
Kinard UMC, Ninety Six
Long Cane AME, Abbeville
Long Cane Presbyterian, Abbeville
Main St. UMC, Greenwood
Mathews UMC, Greenwood
Mine Creek Missionary Baptist, Saluda
New Hope Baptist, McCormick
New Life Presbyterian, Abbeville
Our Ladies of Lourdes Catholic, Greenwood
PLEAD Center
Sacred Heart Catholic, Abbeville
Shiloh AME, McCormick
Springfield Baptist, Abbeville
Springfield Missionary Baptist, Edgefield
St. Mark UMC, Greenwood
St. Mary A.M.E. Mt. Carmel, McCormick
Tabernacle Baptist, Greenwood
Church of the Resurrection Episcopal, Greenwood
Trinity Episcopal, Abbeville
Westminster Presbyterian, Greenwood
Zion Temple Seventh Day Adventist, Greenwood