Lively discussion, conflict, and compromise
By Gordon Hilsman, DMin, BCC
It was new territory for me as I stepped into my first “facetime” meeting as a member of the Certification Commission. Eight members were present, all experienced and averaging about 60 years old, along with NACC staff and the first Certification Commission chair in NACC history not to have been certified as a CPE supervisor. She got us through a multipoint agenda, all of which we met with varying degrees of discussion (mostly lively), resolution (not always unanimous), conflict (not as bold and sharp as in The West Wing), compromise (with somebody disappointed) and postponement (not yet timely). Several times there was an appearance of the executive director for oversight, direction, background, and encouragement.
So what was the result? What were the issues? What was kicked around, what was kicked off and what was kicked down the road for later?
- Academic equivalencies for certification, domestic and international
- Palliative care and certified specialists
- Peer review and renewal of certification
- Supervisory education as recognizable for continuing education
- Supervisors’ options now that supervisory education is being “sun-setted” by the NACC
Should diaconate training be considered equivalent to a master’s degree for purposes of certification? How do we evaluate the rigor of foreign academic degrees? Should a master’s in pastoral counseling be added to the list of degrees necessary to apply for chaplain certification? Should academic facilities added to the list of those already assumed to be of necessary quality for the master’s degree requirement?
It was acknowledged that no rigid guidelines are actually possible for the complexity of academic institutions that offer so many different degrees of varying quality. The NACC office will draft proposed changes to the Certification Procedures Manual for consideration at the July meeting.
Two fairly clear sides developed from discussion on the idea of certifying a specialty of palliative care chaplains. On the one hand, leaning into requiring a greater level of palliative care competency now being sought by a new field of medicine would take advantage of the situation to move towards improving our relationships with physicians. On the other hand, shouldn’t all certified chaplains be capable of working with palliative care services? And then wouldn’t we be expected to create certification specialties such as in mental health, addictions, and medical ethics as well? We agreed to study efforts by the other organizations, listen to the Board’s direction and leave a decision for not too much later. (The Board later decided to move ahead with the specialty.)
Suggestions from single peer reviewers, who can feel considerable pressure to make recommendations for an applicant’s professional growth in difficult situations, prompted a fair amount of discussion among commission members. When a reviewer begins wondering about possible impairment of the one being reviewed, what are her options? Should such determinations be made by a group rather than an individual? How is impairment to be recognized and referred, if not at peer review? Another five years is a long time for an impaired chaplain to be functioning professionally. The decision was made to update the peer review template for consideration at the July 2013 meeting.
Another sharp discussion involved whether or not a supervisory student can count supervisory education hours for annual continuing education requirements as a chaplain. It seemed a no-brainer to say “yes” for some of us commissioners since supervisory education is often the best way to improve the depth and breadth of one’s pastoral expertise. Since this has not been NACC procedure, there was some disagreement among the commissioners, which ultimately led to compromise. Such a supervisory student can count hours from didactic and supervisory sessions. The NACC office will update the Certification Procedures Manual to reflect guidelines for reporting the continuing education hours.
It had been previously decided that ACPE and NACC supervisors have three options now that the category of NACC supervisor will be closed to those not already in process. Discussion occurred regarding some of these, and a decision was made to revise NACC communications to supervisors clarifying the options.
In addition the commission:
- Discussed and resolved Standards and/or Procedure issues.
- Began processes to study and discuss which Certification Standards are most frequently cited for denial of certification.
- Decided to study the advisability of seeking chaplain reciprocity with the Canadian Association for Spiritual Care.
- Scheduled meetings with the Interview Team Educators at the July meeting for collaboration on Certification Standards development and cultural diversity issues.
The process and content of this meeting unfolded vastly differently from ACPE Certification and Standards meetings, of which I’d had considerable experience over 20 odd years. Most of us left the meeting with assignments and projects in preparation for the next meeting in Milwaukee in July.
Gordon Hilsman is manager of CPE at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, WA.