by Marika H. Hull
In addition to providing training for future chaplains, a CPE program offers many benefits to the institution that hosts it as well. Marika H. Hull, a member of the NACC Editorial Advisory Panel, recently asked Sr. Claudia Blanchette, SNDdeN, about the ways that clinical pastoral education can add value to a hospital and the larger community.
Sr. Claudia is Director of Clinical Pastoral Education and Spiritual Care at Holy Family Hospital, a 254-bed community hospital, in Methuen, MA, which is part of the Steward Family Hospital System. As a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, she views her ministry of CPE supervision as participation in the healing ministry of Jesus to persons of diverse faith traditions, life circumstances and cultures.
Sr. Claudia served as the founder and head of the former graduate ministry program at Emmanuel College in Boston for 30 years. She completed four units of CPE during a sabbatical year and decided to enter CPE supervisory education. She has served as an ACPE supervisor since 2001 in the former Urban Parish CPE program at Emmanuel College, at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and now at Holy Family Hospital in Methuen, MA. She holds a BA from Emmanuel College, an MA from Boston College, a diploma in pastoral theology/ministry from the University of Strasbourg, France, and a PhD in religious education from Boston University
Marika Hull is a full-time chaplain at Saint Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, MA. She is a CPE supervisory candidate under the direction of Sr. Claudia Blanchette.
How does CPE fit with the mission of the hospital?
Holy Family Hospital is a community hospital, and CPE is valued for outreach to patients, families and staff, as well as for service to the community. The mission of the hospital within the Steward system focuses on outreach to the community, and the CPE program mirrors this focus. Chaplain interns go out of the hospital to other sites in the community to do clinical work and to attend community programs. The hospital administration stresses outreach to the community and values CPE for its participation in this outreach.
How is the CPE program received in your hospital?
The CPE program at HFH was established way back in 1975 under the Sisters of Bon Secours. The current hospital president, operating officers, and the other department heads see CPE as an integral part of the culture of the institution, and they value the contribution CPE makes to the hospital community and to the surrounding communities.
What is the value of CPE to the hospital? What are some of the challenges?
Our biggest impact is in what we do for the patients, staff, and the community. A big challenge is how to implement new and creative programs. It helps that we are a faith-based hospital. A non-faith-based setting would present different challenges.
Departmental agendas are already so full, why add CPE to the mix?
Overall, a CPE program enhances the possibilities of care for patients, families, and staff. It adds additional opportunities for spiritual care and opportunities for diversity. Also, it offers more outreach to the community.
There are many benefits to the CPE program. We are able to provide more people to reach out to patients and to do creative things. For example, spirituality groups on our behavioral unit that are led by chaplain interns are now part of ongoing modalities that we offer to patients. Chaplain interns bring in their creativity and new ideas. As for long-term benefits, patients experience greater satisfaction as we provide ongoing attention to their emotional and spiritual strengths and needs.
Also, the chaplain interns function as part of the spiritual care team as they interface and collaborate with the Catholic priest chaplain on staff. In clinical areas where there are regular rounds, the chaplain interns attend and are well received and relied on by the staff.
What kind of coverage do you have in your department with both chaplains and chaplain interns in the CPE program?
Our department includes myself and a priest chaplain. We also have volunteers who serve as Eucharistic ministers. Protestant and Latino chaplains also serve our patients part-time and are provided by an outside organization called Communities Together. Except for two to three weeks between each CPE unit, we also have six to ten chaplain interns visiting patients throughout the week.
On a daily basis, the Catholic priest chaplain is available four days a week, Monday through Thursday, for sacramental coverage and emergencies. Chaplain interns do their clinical time throughout the week. We also call on local parishes for sacramental coverage as needed.
What are some of the difficult aspects your double duties as director of spiritual care and CPE supervisor?
I do have to wear two hats. What I find challenging is the need to multitask, and certain times of the year are very intense. I have administrative responsibilities to attend to as director of a department as well as my CPE program components, and national and regional ACPE duties. For example, I find that each December many things need to be done before the end of the year, and it is challenging to handle the many tasks that need attention at that time. But that’s true of many administrative jobs. It helps that spiritual care and CPE are integrated in their service to the hospital, and what helps the most is that the hospital appreciates and values CPE and spiritual care.
What keeps you motivated to continue with CPE in your mix of spiritual care services?
What’s most rewarding for me is to be working with people for their growth and learning, and empowering them as they seek to become chaplains and pastors. I am grateful for the opportunity to journey with people to help them develop the skills necessary to provide spiritual care in a hospital setting to people of many different faiths and cultural backgrounds. Each chaplain intern is unique, and I enjoy their uniqueness and their creativity. They are trying to be the best person and chaplain they can be, and I get to accompany and empower them in this effort.
I am also very grateful through CPE to be part of the bigger picture of the mission of the hospital. With our chaplain interns, we who are involved in spiritual care are better able to serve the needs of the hospital, and in turn better able to help the hospital achieve its mission of providing good care for the community.