Marquette played a major role in the development of parish nursing in the U.S. As envisioned by Dr. Granger E. Westberg, a Lutheran pastor, modern parish nursing places nurses in ministerial roles in faith communities promoting health and wellness. Rosemarie Matheus and Dr. Richard Fehring developed a parish nurse curriculum in 1989-90 and Matheus became director of the Parish Nurse Institute in 1992. The parish nurse preparation course included a one week intensive study followed by a nine month fellowship. Content included practice standards, spiritual care giving, and wellness. This curriculum became known as the “Wisconsin Model” and was selected as the designated parish nurse preparation program by the National Parish Nurse Resource Center. As many as 14 Marquette programs per year were offered on campus and at distant locations.
Marquette and Aurora Health Care developed a collaborative relationship to prepare parish nurses. Aurora recruited nurses for the parish nurse program, provided tuition reimbursement and compensation for the nurses’ work in the community. Upon completion of the program, nurses were placed in local congregations. This format was adopted by other health systems.
When the National Parish Nurse Resource Center recognized the need for a standardized curriculum to define and control of parish nursing, Matheus took a leadership role. She worked with colleagues Ann Solari-Twadell and Mary Ann McDermott to write the American Nurses Association Scope and Standards of Parish Nursing.
The Marquette Parish Nurse Institute Program has prepared over 1,600 nurses across the United States in 40 states and internationally in Canada, Mexico, Belize, Great Britain and the Middle East. Parish nursing is consistent with the College’s mission and concern for social justice. It reclaims spirituality in nursing practice.