Nancy Gordon, RN is the Parish Nurse at Bloor Street and Bathurst United Churches in Toronto.
Luba Rascheff: “You’ve spoken to me before about your past overseas. It’s so interesting. Tell me again.”
Nancy Gordon: “I grew up in Trinidad. My parents were missionaries from the United Church of Canada working with the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Grenada. I wanted to become a nurse because Mom was a missionary nurse.”
LR: “Was your mom your greatest influence?”
NG: “Yes. And my dad was influential in developing a theological college that enabled Trinidadians to become ministers. Since then, the church in Trinidad has become independent and no longer needs overseas support. Both of my parents embodied and were role models of a caring Christian life.”
Nancy Gordon, RN, Parish Nurse in her office at Bloor Street United Church.
LR: “What happened next in your life and nursing career?”
NG: “Between 1974 and 1976, I did my nurses’ training. I was taught that good nursing addresses the whole person—body, mind and spirit. But when I entered into the workforce, I understood that there is a big taboo about addressing spiritual needs. People are afraid of offending, or of being seen as proselytizing. So active nursing is lopsided, with a heavier emphasis on the physical and mental aspects of total person care. I felt there was something missing, but at the time the choice was to either be a nurse or a chaplain.”
LR: “So how did parish nursing happen?”
NG: “Between 1975 and 1985, I worked as a nurse. I stopped in ’85 to have children and raise a family. It was in ’99 when, after doing a refresher course in preparation for getting back to nursing, I heard about ICHM Canada. Linda Butler [then Minister of Religion at Bloor Street United Church] attended an Information Forum with Gail Brimbecom [one of ICHM’s founding members] and others. She posted a notice in our church bulletin: ‘Calling All Nurses’ about a ‘New and Exciting Field’which addressed the whole person including the spiritual dimension.”
NG: “And it sounded very interesting to me. There was a well-attended meeting in the Upper Club Room with several nurses at which we heard about Parish Nursing. I thought to myself, ‘That’s it! This is where we can nurse and care for the whole person, too. I want to do this!’ We had our first training session in Whitby and some members from Bathurst United Church also attended.”
LR: “Bathurst was already involved in parish nursing?”
NG: “Actually, they were the ones who approached Bloor Street [United] first, saying: ‘Would you like to go in with us on this?’ This is why our Parish Nurse ministry is a joint ministry with two churches, Bloor Street and Bathurst.
LR: “Would you please explain, especially for younger people interested in becoming parish nurses, why attending Parish Nurse Professional Practice Group (PNPPG) meetings is so important?”
NG: “Parish nursing is a relatively isolated position. Nursing, hospital nursing anyway, is a team position. You have colleagues to discuss things with. This is why attending PNPPG meetings is so important. It provides support resources, a forum where difficult situations can be discussed by other professionals who understand all the nuances. In the same way that Christianity is best practiced in community, parish nursing benefits from the community of other parish nurses.”
LR: “Where do you see the future of parish nursing in the next decade?”
NG: “Finances is the biggest hurdle for churches and parish nurses. If you want to attract younger people, you have to provide a salary.”
LR: “Thank you so much for spending this time with me. I appreciate it so much.”
NG: “You’re welcome,” [smiling.] ♥
Nancy Gordon, RN, Parish Nurse laughs as she sits in the rocking chair in the narthex of Bloor Street United Church.
Nancy Gordon, RN, Parish Nurse at Bloor Street and Bathurst United Churches was interviewed by Luba Rascheff, MDiv, ICHM Staff member on March 29, 2016 at Bloor Street United Church. | Photography credit: L. Rascheff.