A nurse who set up a project at a Dundee church to provide health support to people in the city at risk of homelessness has been honoured for her “pioneering” work.
Barbara MacFarlane started the Parish Nursing service at Nethergate’s Steeple Church more than ten years ago helping people experiencing poverty, homelessness and a wide range of problems.
Barbara and her two colleagues, as well as a team of volunteers, now run two drop-in clinics a week, offering health support and guidance while providing a hot meal and some emergency underwear and toiletries, or warm gloves and hats.
After a nursing career of more than forty years, including 23 years spent as a nursing lecturer at the University of Dundee, Barbara decided to train as a parish nurse in 2007, creating the service the following year at the Steeple Church where she is a member.
She has now been awarded the title of Fellow of the Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland (QNIS), in recognition of the exceptional care she brings.
The award of QNIS Fellowship aims to create a community of support for the charity which will provide expert advice on practice, education, research, policy and integrated care while honouring those who have made outstanding contributions to community nursing in Scotland.
Fifty years ago, Barbara was a nursing undergraduate on one of the early nursing degree programmes in London. Dundee-born, she returned to work at Ninewells Hospital as a ward sister for many years, and a love of supporting students took her into education.
Instead of turning her attention to retiring, she then set out on a whole new career. A woman with a strong Christian faith, she had heard about Parish Nursing, and said she loved the idea of being able to practice in a very person-centred holistic way, integrating spiritual values intentionally into care, for people of all faiths and none.
She said: “In starting the Steeple Church project, my heartfelt desire was to reach out with loving kindness alongside the practical services which we provide.
“For more than ten years now, the team of nurses and volunteers has journeyed alongside some of the most vulnerable people in Dundee.
“When working with very broken and hurting people, who too often die far too soon, sometimes our hearts are almost broken, but then at other times our hearts are brimming over with joy and pride for their achievements.”
Clare Cable, QNIS Chief Executive and Nurse Director, said: “Barbara is an extraordinary practitioner who is a real pioneer and inspiration to generations of community nurses in Scotland.
“Not only does she bring exceptional nursing care to those who need it; her tenacity and resilience has enabled the vital work to continue as she spends her spare time writing grant applications, with all the work funded from trusts, foundations and donations which she has brought in.
“Week after week for a decade, the team at Steeple Church have welcomed people in to receive warmth, food and health support. Barbara is a true social reformer, just getting on with what needs to be done, modelling the way and bringing others with her.”
Rev Robert Calvert, minister of Steeple Church, said: “Parish Nursing brings together the expertise and commitment of Christian nurses to meet the whole needs of vulnerable people in the city centre.
“The nurses are at the frontline and each day brings new challenges to them. They are ably supported by a volunteer team from the congregation and those overcoming addiction lifestyles.
“Barbara is the pioneer behind it and of similar initiatives around Scotland. At a time when others think about retirement, Barbara works all the hours with the support of her husband Bob and the other nurses. While life-changes in people with addictions are often remarkable, Barbara feels the pain of those who struggle and lose the battle.
“She is a gifted and creative person whose experience in the NHS has prepared her well for this community approach. When confronted by difficult problems, she exercises wisdom and grace.
“She is most deserving of this recognition as a Fellow of the Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland.”
Barbara was presented with a badge and certificate by Professor Sir Lewis Ritchie, chair of QNIS Council, at an awards ceremony in Edinburgh on November 28.
A total of 20 community nurses were given the award of Queen’s Nurse during the event, while three Fellowships were presented.