Columbia St. Mary’s employs two nurses to work in collaboration with churches and community organizations to improve the health of individuals and the community in general. Brenda Buchanan and Julia Means provide health education, health screening, care management and health crisis support to members of sponsoring churches and through a variety of outreach programs affiliated with the churches.
Columbia St. Mary’s, a three-hospital Catholic system and a member of Ascension Health, finds that parish nursing fits Ascension’s call to action: “to provide health care that works, health care that is safe, and health care that leaves no one behind.” We assign parish nurses to congregations in Milwaukee’s central city or to congregations with a social justice ministry to serve the central city. Addressing health disparities and improving access to health care in the central city are key aspects of our response to Ascension’s call.
Brenda Buchanan serves Three Holy Women parish, consisting of sites at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, St. Hedwig’s and St. Rita’s churches. Brenda is assisted by a Health Ministry Cabinet of parishioners who advise her regarding the interests and needs of the parish members. An important part of the work is support to Three Holy Women’s outreach to older adults and to impoverished people in their community. Milwaukee Catholic Home has provided funding support for this parish nursing position, as have numerous local foundations.
Julia Means serves Ebenezer Church of God in Christ, Solomon Community Methodist Church and New Life Presbyterian Church in Milwaukee’s central city. She also provides support to Clinton Rose Senior Center, the Adult Literacy Center and Martin Luther King Elementary School. Julia runs a health education and screening clinic based at the Ebenezer Food Pantry. She developed the Kids of Nia character development program at Martin Luther King School as well as the Blanket of Love prenatal care and parenting education program at Ebenezer Church.
At each of their churches, the Community Health Ministry nurses serve as a health care safety net for members in health crisis, helping them to navigate health systems and service providers.