Chris Erickson was born in Duluth, Minnesota, and grew up in a musical family. She became a church organist at the age of 10 and also worked alongside her father, a pharmacist, for 15 years. After receiving her nursing degree, she was employed in a neuroscience/trauma unit of a regional hospital for 20 years, and also worked as a diabetes educator. She moved to Green Valley with her husband and two daughters in 2008 to be close to her in-laws. Shortly afterwards, Erickson embarked on a new professional path, accepting a position as Valley Presbyterian Church’s parish nurse. Erickson juggles a busy schedule as parish nurse, executive director of Valley Assistance Services and serves as the church organist for Our Lady of the Valley Church.
Q: What led you to refocus your career on parish nursing?
A: After working in acute, task-driven medical settings since 1991, I felt that education and caring often fell to the back burner. There is so much more we can do in healthcare to prevent people from going into hospitals, especially as they age, and this appealed to me. Many people can give medication or change dressings, but in parish nursing, you’re part of a team that provides support in the areas of mind, body and spirit, which I believe is critical to those who have illnesses or injuries. In addition to visits with parishioners at their homes, hospitals, adult care and rehab facilities, I also provide education on wellness, dementia support, end-of-life issues, classes on caregiving, advance directives as well as health screenings.
Q: Is parish nursing a common role in many congregations in the region?
A: Parish nursing has become a growing field since the 1990s. There are a couple of parish nurses in Green Valley, but more in Tucson. Although it isn’t a common role in churches, it should be in those congregations with older parishioners. The scope of the job is of a health counselor, advocate, resource specialist and educator. I work closely with the pastors at Valley Presbyterian and the Congregational Care Committee to provide the best care.
Q: Describe that care approach?
A: An example would be if a person from the congregation has surgery or becomes ill. After the pastor’s visit, I would follow up on any medical issues. That includes knowing the person’s medications and treatments, follow-ups with providers, making sure they have support from family, friends or neighbors as well as seeing what the church family can provide.