By Mary Davis, BCS, MTS
Imagine going to have blood work done, and having the health professional remark, “Oh, I hope I remember how to do this – the last time I took blood was in my lab rotation 10 years ago.”
The NACC office frequently takes calls from NACC certified members who question the requirement for renewal of certification every five years for Board Certified Chaplains. Likewise, I was on a conference call with chaplaincy peers when a peer remarked that she was “not sure why anyone would need (palliative care) certification if they were already certified by the NACC or APC.”
Professional chaplains are just that – professionals. In our daily ministry, we are peers with other professionals e.g., in the medical setting, we are peers alongside physicians, nurses, therapists, etc. Our professional peers are required to keep up their training. I would not want to be the patient with the health professional mentioned above. I expect that the professionals from whom I seek healthcare will be up-to-date in their competency and methodology. Chaplains cannot shirk similar updating, time for retreat and education, and renewal of competencies for certification.
Most of us embrace the changes that rapidly define our lives and our work practices. We’ve moved on from typewriters, rotary phones, cassette tapes, etc. in favor of the increased quality we now experience through computers, cell phones, and music available through CDs, online and on phones. Technology is only one aspect of the world of today’s certified chaplain. Competence in addressing medical ethics situations has become more complex in the last 20 years, along with growing awareness of unique ministry needs and responses related to age, gender, faith traditions, culture, ethnicity, and healthcare specialties.
The NACC’s first Manual of Standards was presented in 1984. Since then, we have embraced and exceeded the Common Standards, having 35 competencies for prospective chaplains to meet. We exceed the Common Standards with the addition of our standards particular to Catholic identity, realities, sensitivities, and theology.
It is, therefore, incumbent on today’s certified chaplain, to stay not only current with ministry skills and competencies, but to stretch for further learning through the annual Continuing Education hours’ requirements. Chaplains are moving into many new and evolving ministries, and even today, the NACC competencies may not adequately address the practice areas of chaplains. Palliative care competencies are being added and, in the future, competencies related to ministry within mental health, elder care, pediatric specialties, wellness/social settings etc., may need to be explored to round out the overall skills and competence of what constitutes a professional chaplain.
A side benefit to the requirement of renewal of certification is the opportunity to sit with an NACC peer and review the personal and professional challenges and highlights of your last five years, the progress you made on goals set at that time, and your hopes for the future. Professionals need both personal and professional renewal; mark every five-year anniversary in a way that honors your competence and encourages your ongoing professional growth.
Mary Davis, director of spiritual care and CPE supervisor at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System in San Antonio, TX, is a member of the NACC’s Certification Commission.