What is Clinical Pastoral Education?
Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is graduate-level theological and professional education for ministry that takes place in a clinical setting. CPE students learn the art and skills of pastoral and spiritual care by providing pastoral and spiritual care to patients, families and staff, and then reflecting on their ministry experiences with an ACPE Certified Educator supervisor and a small group of peers.
In addition to learning skills and expanding knowledge related to ministry in a health care setting, students are invited to learn about themselves and how their personal histories, faith perspectives and individual gifts influence their pastoral and professional functioning. Students have the opportunity to shape their learning by setting their own learning goals and seeking experiences and resources to assist in meeting those goals.
The clinical method of learning used is a dynamic and creative process that combines action (the actual practice of ministry to persons) and reflection (using resources such as written reports of visits, discussion and feedback from peers and a Certified Educator, and application and integration of didactic material). An ongoing learning cycle is formed which enables students to develop and expand their ministry skills and knowledge while also deepening their self-awareness and self-knowledge. Out of this expanded self-awareness and ministry experience, new ministry and relational choices and responses are available to the student.
The CPE Program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education to offer Level I, Level II and Certified Educator CPE programs. We are accountable to the ACPE standards and our CPE curriculum and programs are developed to meet these standards in order to provide an excellent educational and training experience. The ACPE website is a very helpful resource for more information about CPE and its history, methodology and typical curriculum elements.
Who takes CPE?
CPE is taken by seminary students preparing for ordained ministry, ordained clergy who desire continuing education in pastoral/spiritual care, and qualified lay persons who may desire the learning in self-reflection and pastoral care for ministry within their faith communities. Lay persons and clergy may also take CPE to discern a ministry vocation in chaplaincy, and CPE is the primary clinical training modality for those preparing for professional hospital chaplaincy. Persons from many faith traditions and denominations take CPE, as well as persons from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
Those who are interested in discerning a call to hospital or health care chaplaincy typically take a first unit of CPE. If the CPE experience confirms that interest, it is recommended that application to a CPE Residency program be made. These yearlong programs consist of three or four CPE units, pay a stipend and typically provide some benefits, and are designed to provide focused training and education to prepare students to serve in a professional chaplain role. The national certifying professional chaplaincy organizations typically require a total of four CPE units as part of the certification requirements. Those interested in professional chaplaincy may wish to explore the websites of these national chaplain certifying associations: The Association of Professional Chaplains; the National Association of Catholic Chaplains; and the National Association of Jewish Chaplains.
CPE at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
CPE has been offered for more than 30 years at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center, one of the largest and most diverse academic medical centers in the country. Our CPE program and Chaplaincy Department are well integrated into the Mission of the Medical Center: to improve people’s lives through patient care, education and research. CPE students join many other students within this academic health care setting who are learning professional roles and skills. CPE students serve as chaplain interns or residents within the Chaplaincy Department, visiting patients, responding to requests and referrals, and providing after-hours on call coverage. CPE students work and learn alongside our Chaplaincy Department staff of professional chaplains, who serve as models of professional pastoral care givers and consultants in the students’ learning process.
The breadth and scope of medical care at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center provides a rich training environment for CPE students. CPE students provide spiritual and pastoral care to persons with a wide variety of medical conditions that reflects the innovative services provided here. CPE students visit patients and their families in University Hospital, Ross Heart Hospital, The James Cancer Hospital, Brain and Spine Hospital and University Hospital East. CPE residents may also have pastoral experience with psychiatric patients at Harding Hospital and physical rehabilitation patients in Dodd Hall.
In addition to the wide range of medical care available, our staff and patients represent a variety of faith traditions, as well as many ethnic and cultural backgrounds. CPE students have the opportunity to expand their knowledge and experience with cultural and religious diversity through their pastoral work and through formal CPE curriculum elements. In addition to the clinical learning resources within the Medical Center, there are many other learning resources available to CPE students within The Ohio State University, The Ohio State University College of Medicine and The Ohio State University College of Nursing. A variety of lectures and workshops are open to students on subjects relevant to their learning.
CPE Programs offered at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center currently include:
- Level 1 Extended Unit
- Level I Summer CPE Program
- CPE Residency Program
- Certified Educator Training and Education Program
CPE Content and Structure
Each “unit” of CPE, whether Level I, Level II, or Certified Educator CPE, consists of a minimum of 400 hours combining no less than 100 hours of structured group and individual education with supervised clinical practice in ministry. CPE students are assigned to patient care units to serve as a chaplain intern or resident. In addition to visiting patients and families and interacting with the staff in their assigned clinical areas, CPE students serve as in-house on call chaplains for after-hours shifts (weeknights, weekends, and holidays). Students will also provide worship service leadership when serving as on call chaplain on Sunday and for other special services offered by the Chaplaincy and CPE department.
Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center CPE curriculum is designed to facilitate students’ learning in pastoral formation, pastoral competence and pastoral reflection. CPE provides opportunities to embrace the role of minister and learn pastoral/spiritual care skills related to ministry, to develop abilities in self-reflection and self-awareness, and to learn to use peers, Certified Educators, and others as resources for learning. CPE is done in a small group format, and each CPE program typically has 4-6 students enrolled. Given the value of diverse experiences, thinking and styles of ministry, the ACPE Certified Educators desire to create a small group with as much diversity as possible.
The peer group meets routinely each week in order to:
- Review and discuss student presentations of their pastoral visits, using the resources of theology/spirituality, the behavioral sciences, and pastoral care to develop greater knowledge and awareness of the dynamics and needs present in each visit
- Attend lectures or presentations of conceptual material relevant to learning and serving in the pastoral role within this setting
- Reflect on the peer relationships, and dynamics within the peer group, in order to learn more about oneself in relationship with others and as a group member (peer supervision)
In addition to the group meetings, individual supervision occurs with the ACPE Certified Educator weekly, giving the student opportunity to discuss their specific learning needs and concerns as they arise throughout the program. CPE students also set their own learning goals at the program's start which helps personalize their learning. Staff Chaplains serve as resources and consultants for the students' learning, both formally and informally.
It is important to note that, while CPE shares some elements with ‘traditional’ classroom learning (such as lectures, required reading, written reports of visits or “verbatims”), there is a unique emphasis in CPE on using ‘here and now’ relationships – with patients, families, medical staff, pastoral care staff, peers, and Certified Educators – as an avenue for transformative learning about ministry and ministry relationships. Through these relationships, the relational issues of trust, respect, differences, assertiveness, confrontation and conflict are practiced, experienced and reflected upon as a way to grow in self-awareness and the skills needed for ministry.
ACPE Certified Educators
The Rev. Imani Jones
Learn More and Apply
The links below describe our current programming and how to apply.
- Level I Extended Unit - Not offered Autumn of 2022
- Level I Summer Unit - Not offered Summer of 2022
- CPE Residency Program - August 15, 2022 - August 11, 2023 (Now accepting applications)
- Certified Educator CPE - Currently not accepting applications
- CPE Application Information
- CPE Annual Notice
Department of Chaplaincy and CPE
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
S594 Rhodes Hall
410 West 10th Ave.
Columbus, OH 43210-1228
Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s CPE program is accredited by The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc. to offer Level I, Level II and Certified Educator CPE. ACPE, Inc., 55 Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard, Suite 835, Atlanta, GA 30308; Tel: 404-320-1472; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.acpe.edu.