What is required for a person to serve as a chaplain? What does a chaplain do?
The Board of Chaplaincy Certification, Inc., an affiliate of the Association of Professional Chaplains, says a chaplain provides “spiritual care in healthcare facilities, correctional institutions, long-term care units, rehabilitation centers, hospice, military, and other specialized settings.” Certification as a chaplain means this person has “met established national standards for professional competence, and is held to a code of ethics.”
The standards of education and qualifications for Board Certified Chaplains (BCCs) include a Bachelor’s Degree plus three years of graduate level theological education taken at an accredited school; four (4) units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE provided by ACPE, NACC or CAPPE); and one year (2,000 hours) full-time chaplaincy experience. Ecclesiastical endorsement by a recognized faith group for ministry in a specialized setting is also required for board certification.
Why is Palliative Care Training for Chaplains Needed?
But beyond the initial certification, like most professions in healthcare, continuing education and professional development is required of certified spiritual care providers. The CSU Shiley Institute for Palliative Care has a long and distinguished reputation for delivering high quality, cutting-edge courses and resources for chaplaincy, nursing, social work, and more. Consistent with our tradition of excellence, the Institute is launching a new Essentials of Palliative Care Chaplaincy certificate program, which provides 64 CE hours of education to support chaplains who work in a variety of settings with people facing serious illnesses, and their families.
Challenges Facing Chaplains
In settings where chaplains provide spiritual care, more of those they serve do not identify with a religion or practice. This segment of Americans has grown, shown in evidence by studies from the Pew Research Institute, where in 2014, 22.8 % of Americans surveyed by Pew were religiously unaffiliated, up from 16.1% seven years earlier (Pew, 2014). This “unaffiliated” group was the fastest growing “religious” group, more numerous than Catholics or mainline Protestants (Pew, 2014).
Chaplains whose backgrounds require religious endorsement are increasingly challenged to broaden their views and understandings, to support nonreligious patients and families, one of the key topics covered in the Essentials of Palliative Care Chaplaincy course. As individuals with chronic or life-threatening illness face not only medical challenges, they face existential questions and need assistance in developing coping skills, whether inside of or outside a particular spiritual belief system, another key topic covered in the course.
Chaplains as Members of the Healthcare Team
The course also provides training and insights for professional chaplains to assist patients with medical decision-making and Advance Directives, and extensive coverage of groups and family systems, grief, emotional distress and mental health, to be able to support patients’ and families’ goals, thus maximizing quality of life.
To equip chaplains to fully participate as an essential member of the palliative care team, Essentials of Palliative Care Chaplaincy will underpin the chaplain’s role as an inspirational leader, educator and advocate, give the chaplain tools to be a facilitator of resilience to prevent burnout in the team, as well as reflect ethical, cultural and religious challenges facing patients and the people who care for them.
Course Establishes Pivotal Role of Chaplains
With the training provided in the Institute’s newest chaplaincy-focused course, the Essentials of Palliative Care Chaplaincy certificate program, chaplains can increase their knowledge base to more fully serve a pivotal role to communicate palliative care and end-of-life care options, and facilitate decision-making in ways that help people make informed
 Board of Chaplaincy Certification, Inc., an affiliate of the Association of Professional Chaplains http://www.professionalchaplains.org/files/news/benefits_bcc.pdf
 Pew Research (2014). US Religious Landscape Survey.