Ministering to the immediate spiritual and emotional needs of people in crisis is a core of how hospital chaplains minister to people every day. Even though the majority of people undergoing some form of health care are not facing the crisis of imminent death, the very need for health care itself often raises any number of “lesser” crisis that can also be highly disturbing on many levels. The hospital chaplain is there to assist the individual to make some sense of what they are experiencing and to help them, if possible, to utilize the spiritual assets at their disposal as a means of dealing with the situation.
The hospital chaplain’s primary activity will be to visit with patients, assessing their spiritual and emotional state, and seeking to provide whatever ministry is appropriate to the patient and his/her needs.
The hospital chaplain will also attend to family members and friends of critically ill patients as well as to those remaining after the death of a loved one.
The other, often missed, aspect of hospital chaplaincy is the ministry to the hospital staff. The chaplain will build relationships with all types of people employed by the hospital and will minister to them in much the same way a pastor ministers to the congregation.
Finally, the hospital chaplain is looked to perform a variety of services, from corporate worship to special prayer services and memorial services for those who have died.
Although it is still possible to secure a position as a hospital chaplain without being APC board certified, these positions are rapidly declining. More and more hospitals are only hiring board certified chaplains.
There are five core requirements that must be completed before one becomes eligible for certification by the Association of Professional Chaplains, the main certifying body in North America.
- Masters of Divinity degree or equivalent
- 4 units of clinical pastoral education
- 2,000 hours full-time chaplaincy experience after completion of CPE residency
- Ecclesiastical Endorsement from the ACM office of the General Conference
Steps to Meeting Credentialing Requirements
1) Obtain a Graduate level theology degree
2) Take four units of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) from an ACPE accredited training center.
The first unit can often be taken during the M.Div. program, though it will extend the overall length of your program somewhat.
The remaining three or four units are referred to as the CPE residency and will require one full calendar year to complete.
3) Obtain ecclesiastical Endorsement
4) Obtain ordination
- It is preferable to obtain your ordination before pursuing chaplain certification
- If you do not yet have ordination, this can be obtained after one has been employed as a chaplain for a time.
- In this situation the hospital makes the recommendation to the local conference, requesting that the chaplain be considered for ordination.
- The conference will then examine the chaplain and if all is in order they will usually ordain.
- This is done in cooperation with the ACM office of the General Conference.
5) 2000 hours of chaplaincy experience
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