BayCare Faith Community Nurses Sew Masks for Team Members and Community
For 29 years, BayCare’s Faith Community Nurses have worked with churches to form a unique partnership between two healing entities – hospitals and faith communities. As part of its mission, BayCare is dedicated to assisting faith communities in developing health ministries that promote wellness and wholeness by addressing emotional, physical and spiritual needs.
A Faith Community Nurse (FCN) is a licensed, registered nurse. In 2019, the FCNs volunteered more than 65,000 hours and reached 79,132 people through screenings, referrals, consultations, support groups, and one-on-one health counseling. One Bay-area congregation, through the leadership of its FCN, organized a 12-week imaginary walking tour through Jerusalem. The program provided increased physical activity, spiritual growth and cultural awareness for the congregation’s participants.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and churches were unable to hold services, our FCN team thought, “Now what do we do?” One answer rephrased an old saying: “When the going gets tough, the tough get sewing.”
“Many of our nurses know how to sew, so they chose to make masks,” said Deb Rivard, director, BayCare Faith Community Nursing. “They worked in partnership with their churches to coordinate sewing teams. Those who did not sew became organizers.”
Sewers made the masks at their homes with materials they already had in stock. As the sewers depleted their stockpiles, organizers found donations of more materials. When a good number of masks were completed, the sewers left them on their porches for the organizers to pick up and distribute.
In early March, they donated masks to BayCare ancillary team members, such as those in Environmental Services or Food and Nutrition. Instructions on how to wash them was provided, too.
BayCare FCNs also donated masks to Pinellas Hope, Hillsborough Hope, La Esperanza and San José Mission. They recently added the Shepherd Center to their distribution list.
“Initially, we gave 400 to Pinellas Hope; now we deliver them as needed,” Rivard said. “Because underserved populations, indigent populations, are not able to wash their masks, one team washed, dried and delivered masks to homeless shelters.”
Now that churches are reopening, FCN is resuming their education function. A lot of churches are asking if they need to have masks. “We want to be sure they have them so we deliver about 40 masks per church,” Rivard said. “But we also remind them that if they have congregants in high-risk categories, they should remain home.”
There are approximately 300 FCNs throughout BayCare and 92 Congregational Health Promoters (non-professionals) who serve in 199 faith communities in the counties that BayCare serves.
Over three months, the FCNs created about 1,300 masks. To celebrate National Nurses Week, Rivard found a pin that says “Warrior Nurse, COVID-19” to give to her nurses.
“There has been such camaraderie,” Rivard said. “We have expanded nursing to be advocates and to provide comfort not only at the bedside. We have come together to provide health care throughout the system and help people get through this.”