News Story

Nurses Care for Those Who Serve

Occasionally missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serving across Canada need medical help. When illness strikes or an accident happens, a missionary’s call to a mission nurse specialist can be a helpful step on the road to recovery.

Mission nurse specialists are full-time missionaries who receive an 18- to 24-month assignment to assist Church mission presidents (leaders of a set number of Mormon missionaries in a given geographical area) and their wives in providing health care and health education for the missionaries whom they lead. This specialist may be a registered nurse, a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant.

While the ultimate responsibility for the health of missionaries rests on a mission president and his wife, the nurse specialist is available by phone 24 hours a day and arranges for care of all types.

Susan Ann Denney, MSN, RN, who serves as a member of the Mission Nurse Specialist Committee at Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, states, “The goal for the Church is to have mission nurse specialists in every mission in the world.” Of the Church’s seven Canadian missions, only three missions have a full-time nurse specialist. Those three missions are headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia; Toronto, Ontario; and Winnipeg, Manitoba. Worldwide, thus far, only 25 per cent of missions have an assigned mission nurse.

Where there is no full-time nurse specialist available, nurses or other medical personnel who live within mission boundaries can take calls from missionaries needing medical help and advice.

Much of a nurse specialist’s work involves consulting over the phone to arrange for doctor appointments, lab tests and, if necessary, emergency room visits. Consulting in this way makes it possible for missionaries located hours away from the nurse to receive medical help and a listening ear.

Sister Elizabeth Hunter, serving as a nurse specialist in the Canada Halifax Mission, shares her experience: “I do 95 per cent of my nursing role on the phone — I am not near missionaries on a daily basis, as there are none in the small branch we are assigned to — and I teach the new missionaries that arrive in [the] mission about good health practices.”

Although most missionaries are healthy throughout the 18 to 24 months of their service, serious illness and accidents can occur. Sister Denney states, “Some of the work done by the nurse specialist helps the missionaries get the medical diagnosis and care that can make a difference for their entire life. All of us need training and reminders for healthy lifestyles, especially 18- to 24-year-olds leaving home for the first time.” Sister Denney continues, “It is amazing to see how the Lord works to protect His missionaries and hastens the work to go forward.”

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