I love this description of Pastor Suzie Goodenough’s year of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), as she completed her training to become a clinical chaplain.
1,600 hours of CPE is one of the prerequisites to becoming a clinical chaplain, in addition to completing a Master of Divinity degree, and endorsement by a major faith tradition.
Suzie goes on to share the heart of her work, “My favorite thing about chaplaincy is that I meet people every day from all walks of life. Some have a faith in God or declare a religious affiliation, but most do not. They all have one thing in common – they are in crisis and need someone to “sit in the dirt” with them. They do not need me to fix them. What they need is for me to listen, with empathy, and acknowledge their pain and suffering, to hold their hand, to affirm their value and worth, just as they are, to remind them they are not alone.”
CPE was a big accomplishment, but as Suzie says, “Actually pursuing board certification (BCC) will require an additional 2,000 clinical hours, a written assessment of how I personally meet each of the 35 competencies of a chaplain, and an in-person board interview. Once I am board certified I will need to log 50 continuing education hours each year to maintain certification.”
For patients and interdisciplinary colleagues, Board Certification provides an assurance of professionalism, commitment, and a high level of training and preparation. There are several organizations that provide Board Certification and they have agreed common standards, so all chaplains with BCC after their name meet or exceed the same mark.
So, this is some of what it takes to become a Board Certified Chaplain. Once achieved, maintaining one’s board certification is an annual process. It includes continuing education, accountability and commitment to the ethical standards of professional chaplains. It’s a rigorous process, but all done for the sake of effective spiritual care for clients: “to help them to process their own stuff and find freedom and peace.”