By David Lichter
NACC Executive Director
How does the professional education and training of chaplains keep up with the field? The primary answer is, “We do it together through strategic and persistent collaboration.”
The Forum section of Reflective Practice, Volume 35, continues the discussion started in Volume 34 on how best to prepare chaplains for the profession. The core article was by Alexander Tartaglia, DMin, senior associate dean of the School of Allied Health Professions at Virginia Commonwealth University, titled, “Reflection on the Development and Future of Chaplaincy Education.” It was an engaging, insightful, and forward-thinking article that offered the reader both a glimpse into the reform-minded foundations of CPE and some suggestions on improving the CPE model by attending to the changing healthcare environment.
After a thoughtful analysis of CPE’s historical, theoretical, clinical, and educational tenets, Dr. Tartaglia identified “some key areas needing attention that might promote further development of healthcare chaplaincy as a clinical profession.” These included a need for:
- A consensus on professional standard definitions, particularly that of the role of the chaplain, and definitions of spiritual care and spirituality.
- Commonly accepted components/content/metrics for a spiritual assessment, if it is a core standard of practice.
- An “established criteria for prioritizing patient visitation or for determining which patients should be seen by a professional chaplain.”
- Some outcome-driven spiritual pathways for caring for specific patient populations that have been exposed to ongoing evaluation.
- Moving away from what chaplains do to “what healthcare organizations do and how the chaplain’s role can serve that mission.”
- An ongoing examination of the standards of professional practice to ensure that they parallel the improvement in healthcare delivery.
- Becoming ever more a research-informed profession supported by evidence-based practice.
I was invited to write a response to Dr. Tartaglia’s paper, along with David Johnson, president of ACPE; Judith Ragsdale, ACPE supervisor and director of education and research, Department of Pastoral Care, at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center; and Joseph Perez, APC chaplain and vice president for pastoral services at the Valley Baptist Healthy System in Harlingen, TX. Each of us took a little different perspective, but what was clear was the common call to improve the training through greater collaboration among the professional associations.
In fact the “strategic and persistent collaboration” among our cognate partners has been going on. First of all, ACPE, APC, and NACC leaders have four task forces examining: 1. Consistency in teaching to and assessing the common standards; 2. The parallel processes for certification of ACPE supervisors and board-certified chaplains; 3. The demographic trends for future clinical pastoral educators and board-certified chaplains; and 4. The increased competition among CPE and chaplain certification groups. These are very important topics for the future of chaplaincy, and it is vital we discuss these together.
Secondly, a collaborative initiative involves five of the six cognate groups (ACPE, APC, CASC, NAJC, and NACC) who developed, affirmed, and implemented the Common Standards for Professional Chaplains and the Common Code of Ethics to review/revise these two foundational documents. The sixth original association, American Association of Pastoral Counsellors, affirmed and supported the work we will do, but chose not to participate since its pastoral counselor members do not use these standards.
Thirdly, NACC, ACPE, NAJC, and APC are collaborating with George Fitchett, PhD, and Wendy Cadge, PhD, on a four-year project to advance research literacy among us health care chaplains, will results in education and training for our members. The project, funded by a $4.5 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation, recently launched its website. Catarina Mako, BCC, is our NACC liaison on the Project Advisory Committee.
Finally, the Joint Research Council, initiated by APC, is a collaborative effort to transform chaplaincy in ways related to research. It seeks to enhance communication among professional colleagues around research; advocate for research efforts and literacy; and provide a central place for information about opportunities for chaplain-related research. This Joint Research Council is really a global initiative, as it includes the major chaplaincy associations of North America, Europe, and Australia. Along with our cognate associations, participants include the National Association of Veterans Affairs Chaplains, Spiritual Care Australia, Scottish Association of Chaplains in Healthcare, and Healthcare Chaplaincy Network. Katherine (Kate) Piderman, PhD, BCC, is our NACC representative on the council.
The NACC is grateful for these strategic partnerships to advance the chaplaincy profession.