Pat Van Acker is a Faith Community Nurse. WWHF’s GrapeVine Project trains Faith Community/Parish Nurses* (FCNs) and provides health education program materials to them. FCNs then educate women in their communities.
What is your favorite aspect of Faith Community Nursing/what made you want to become a FCN?
I felt like I was being called by God to do something at my church with regards to health education because we didn’t have anything like that at our church. So I started researching what PNs are all about. I heard about the course at Concordia and ended up taking it.
I came back all excited, but was working full time at the hospital, so it was really hard to get things going. I started out by just doing basic things like blood pressure clinics, some educational classes, a CPR class, and a First Aid course to bring some basic knowledge to the church folks.
How or why did you get involved with the GrapeVine Project?
While working at Eagle River Memorial Hospital we worked with the Wisconsin Well Woman Program to provide screenings for low-income women and heard about the GrapeVine Project through them.
I heard about the educational offerings and trainings and that, as a Parish Nurse, you could agree to provide some of those sessions, which I thought would be ideal. So I attended a GrapeVine Project training, and it was a wonderful experience. I came home, and when I retired, I started doing more of the educational sessions. Unfortunately, my current church has an aging population and several of the units are geared to a younger audience. I have also done some educational sessions at Moon Beach camp for a Women’s Weekend Retreat.
I am switching churches in September and will be the Congregational Care Coordinator at the Evangelical Free Church in St. Germain. There are a lot of young families at that church and I think the educational sessions will be well received there. I am really excited about starting there in September.
What is your favorite part of the GrapeVine Project?
My favorite part of the GrapeVine Project is the excellent resources you obtain during the training period which we are able to use to educate our audiences. The items are wonderful – a lot of thought and research has gone into it and any education we as Parish Nurses can impart to our congregations and/or public audiences is very worthwhile for them and very satisfying for us as PN’s. The support also from the staff is very helpful and welcomed.
What is a little known fact about you (what are your hobbies and interests)?
I love the outdoors, have restarted camping outings with my son and his family (have my own pop up tent camper). I love to walk with my dog, crocheting, reading, and am very active in my church. I like music and I like education, I like to be educated myself and I like to share what I learn and know with other people, and that has been the benefit for me of the GrapeVine Project – the satisfaction of helping others through education and sharing of resources.
Do you have any stories about a session or a participant who contacted you after a session where you were able to help someone specifically because of the session?
There are low income people in our church, so I was able to connect them with the county to get free and prorated screenings done. We haven’t had a pastor for the last year and a half, so I have done a lot of referrals, home visits and gone with several of them to the doctor’s office as an advocate for them. The older people also need help with medications and going to the doctor’s office with them to act as their advocate. Most of their family members live a distance away and by going with them a lot of confusion and frustration can be avoided.
Anything else you would like to share (kids, grandkids, and pets)?
I was born and raised in Wisconsin, lived in Walworth before moving to St. Germain in 1983. I have a dog named Little Bear (2 ½ year old Teddy Bear which is half Shih Tzu and Bichon). My late husband and I have three children; two kids live in the area, and one in upper New York State. All are married and have children. I have 8 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. I also have two cats, Bucky and Cootie. Between church, and still volunteering at the hospital, I am kept very busy. I enjoy volunteering as when I was working 60 hours a week, I had no time to volunteer for the hospital or my church, so I really enjoy it now.
I want to give a big thank you to everyone at WWHF and GVP because without the opportunities and resources, we would not be able to be as effective as Parish Nurses. The Gathering is always a wonderful event in Marshfield and I always look forward to attending it and receiving more information to share with my congregation. I am looking forward to the new units for training this year, and will be glad once trained, to share my knowledge with the community at large.
*Faith Community/Parish Nursing is a specialty practice recognized by the American Nurses Association. FCNs are registered nurses who work in a faith community to address health issues of its members as well as to those in the broader community.