Blood pressure screening area helps several delegates get medical attention they need

Beside the huge display for the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits (GBOPHB) is a small space that’s become one of the most popular – and most important – places in the entire Tampa Convention Center.

That’s where a team of volunteer parish nurses are doing blood pressure screenings for everyone at General Conference. It’s become important because a number of delegates and visitors have stopped by with symptoms of increasing concern and have been shown that their blood pressure is out of control. Some have been taken down to the facility’s First Aid office, and some of those have even been transported to a local hospital.

“As the temperature and the humidity go up, it’s gotten very busy,” said Colette Nies, communicator for the pensions board.

The booth is representative of a new initiative of the General Board which supports wellness for clergy, lay employees and annual conferences of the church. The Center for Health is a collaboration between GBOPHB and the United Methodist Committee on Relief to promote healthy living throughout The United Methodist Church.

“People have to travel to come to General Conference and they’ve not eating and sleeping well and maybe not taking their meds,” said Sharon Hinton, a parish nurse from Texas who is coordinating the nursing effort through the end of conference. One moment she was helping a woman who had left her prescription medicines at home, the next she was talking to a physician from the Congo about helping him get medical equipment.

“Of course we’re handling a lot more than blood pressure,” Hinton said. “That’s one good thing about parish nurses; they can do almost anything.

“We did this at the last conference for the first time and some delegates we saw last time come looking to find us again,” she added. “It’s a trust thing. You can tell a nurse something you can’t tell someone else. And particularly for the international delegates, who may not have much in the way of health care in their area. ”
The stream of people coming to get checked has been steady. There were nearly 20 people who came in before 9 a.m. on Thursday, Hinton said. Many are people who come to get checked and will continue to monitor their blood pressure each day throughout General Conference.

“With all these meetings, people are all stressed out and their blood pressure is high,” said parish nurse Sue Murphy from Tampa as she wraps a cuff around an arm.

“Usually things get better each day and normalize by the time people go home,” said Hinton.

A team of 36 parish nurses – all volunteers from Florida – are staffing the booth in teams of six or seven. “They’ve done a great job,” said Hinton.

She also offered some suggestions for those who must travel to go home with the gathering is concluded.

“You need to be well hydrated, so drink lots of water for the two days before you fly. Get a good night’s sleep. Eat before you get on a plane, and pack some healthy snacks like nuts and crackers.”

The booth is immediately adjacent to the GBOPHB exhibit in the display area, near Cokesbury.

For more information on the Center for Health and the UMC Health Ministry Network, go to www.gbophb.org/cfh/umchmn.asp.

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