Dundee parish nurse and social reformer honoured for 'exceptional' work

A nurse who set up a project at a Dundee church to provide health support to people at risk of homelessness has been honoured for her “pioneering” work.

Barbara MacFarlane, who founded the Parish Nursing service at Steeple Church, has been awarded the title of Fellow of the Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland (QNIS), in recognition of the exceptional care she brings.

The initiative helps people experiencing poverty, homelessness and a wide range of problems.

Barbara MacFarlane
Ms MacFarlane was presented with a badge and certificate by Professor Sir Lewis Ritchie, chair of QNIS Council, at an awards ceremony in Edinburgh.

Mrs MacFarlane and her two colleagues, as well as a team of volunteers, 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, she decided against retiring and trained as a parish nurse in 2007, creating the service the following year at the Steeple Church where she is a elder.

Strong Christian faith

A woman with a strong Christian faith, Mrs MacFarlane 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.

“In starting the Steeple Church project, my heartfelt desire was to reach out with loving kindness alongside ;the practical service which we provide,” she added.

“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.”

Rev-Robert-Calvert
Rev Robert Calvert

Rev Robert Calvert, minister of Steeple Church, said Mrs MacFarlane, head of Parish Nursing Scotland, was “most deserving” of recognition.

“Parish Nursing brings together the expertise and commitment of Christian nurses to meet the whole needs of vulnerable people in the city centre,” he added.

“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.”

Extraordinary practitioner

Clare Cable, QNIS chief executive and nurse director, described Mrs MacFarlane as 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” she added.