Posted Online: Aug. 23, 2013, 3:42 am

Nursing a giving-back desire injected new parish nurse

Comment on this story

By Leon Lagerstam, llagerstam@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: John Greenwood
Cheli Larson was installed as the new parish nurse at St. James Lutheran Church in Bettendorf on July 14, 2013. Parish nurses provide education on medical issues, act as health advocates and often provide basic services, such as blood-pressure checks or home visits, and their services are free to parishioners. Ms. Larson also leads a Speak-Easy Alzheimer’s and dementia caregiver support group that meets at St. James the second Tuesday of every month from 1 to 2:30 p.m.
BETTENDORF -- Nursing a desire over the years to repay her church community led Cheli Larson to become a new parish nurse.

Ms. Larson was installed last month in her new post at St. James Lutheran Church,1705 Oak St.

She also leads the Speak-Easy Alzheimer's and dementia caregiver support group that meets from 1 to 2:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of every month at the church.

Ms. Larson started both programs about the same time, "but one didn't happen as the result of the other," she said. "They're separate.I have worked with families of Alzheimer's and dementia patients for a long time and wanted to give them some support."

She said she favored naming the group Speak-Easy to "avoid labeling Alzheimer's or dementia patients and their caregivers."

As a parish nurse, she will work with any parishioner to improve their physical, mental and spiritual health.

"I hope to provide a health ministry that gives my church community everything it wants in terms of health education, proper dietary practices and everything they need to be aware of to stay healthy," Ms. Larson said.

A parish nurse's role has expanded greatly over the years, she said, adding that many years ago, all they tended to do was blood-pressure checks.

"Now, it's much more about education and being a resource to address the needs of a church community," she said.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Privacy Rules also changed way parish nurses talk to church members sometimes, Ms. Larson said.

"This is an older congregation of people who were used to saying: 'I hear that so-and-so was in the hospital,' and would ask what happened and if the person was OK," she said. "Now, I have to tell them I can't tell them any information, and do it in a gentle way that doesn't offend them."

Helping people understand those HIPPA rules is another part of her duties.

Ms. Larson, a registered nurse, had to take an additional 36-hour class through Genesis Health System to become a parish or faith-community nurse.

The course covered a variety of topics with many guest speakers, Ms. Larson said, adding that she was one of 17 health professionals to complete it.

"You really learned a lot about yourself, too," Ms. Larson said. "If you know about yourself, it's easier to know what to do to help others."

One thing she learned about herself was that "I'm at a point in my life that I feel different about how I fit into the community, and I know I want to give back by sharing my abilities, knowledge and resources with people in my church community.

"My parents were married here, and I was baptized hear, so I have a strong desire to give back to my church."

CHELI LARSON
Address: Bettendorf.
Birth date: Jan. 15, 1961.
Education: 1989 Scott Community College graduate; registered nurse.
Hometown: Bettendorf.
Family: Three grown sons.
Scripture: Galatians 6:6 "So let us not grow weary in doing what is right."
Favorite Biblical character I'd like to meet: "Mary, the Mother of Jesus."
Hobbies: "Reading, walking, spending time in the outdoors."
One thing I feel strongly about: "Promoting good will."
I wish I knew how to: "Play the piano."