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 reflect on their ministry experiences with a certified CPE Supervisor and a small group of peers.

In addition to learning skills and expanding knowledge related to ministry in a healthcare 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 the CPE Supervisor, and application and integration of didactic material). An ongoing learning cycle develops that 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, Inc. to offer Level I and Level II 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 further in-depth information about CPE and its history, methodology and typical curriculum elements. Its page​ is particularly useful in describing Clinical Pastoral Education and its curriculum, structure and learning methodology.

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 do persons from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Persons who are interested in discerning a call to hospital or healthcare 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 year-long programs consist of three or four CPE units, pay a stipend, typically provide some benefits and are designed to provide the kind of 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 healthcare 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 caregivers and consultants in the students’ learning process.

The breadth and scope of medical care at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center provides a rich training environment for CPE students; its website gives further detail about this world-class academic medical center. CPE students provide spiritual and pastoral care to persons with a wide variety of medical conditions that reflect the innovative services provided here. CPE students visit patients and their families in University Hospital, the Ross Heart Hospital, the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute and University Hospital East. CPE residents may also have pastoral experience with psychiatric patients at the behavioral health hospital, Harding Hospital; the physical rehabilitation hospital, Dodd Hall, and other specialized areas.

In addition to the diversity of medical care available, Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center serves a diverse cultural and spiritual population. Both 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 across The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, there are many other learning resources available to CPE students at The Ohio State University and the Colleges of Medicine and Nursing. A wide range of lectures and workshops are open to our students on topics and subjects relevant to their training.

CPE Content and Structure

Each “unit” of CPE, whether Level I or Level II, 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 chaplain interns or residents. In addition to visiting patients and families and interacting with the staff on their assigned clinical areas, CPE students serve as in-house, on-call chaplains for after-hours shifts (weeknights, weekends and holidays). Students also provide worship service leadership when serving as on-call chaplain on Sunday.

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, supervisors and others as resources for learning. CPE is done in a small group format, and each CPE program typically has four to six students enrolled. Given the value of diverse experiences, thinking and styles of ministry, the CPE supervisors desire to create a small group with as much diversity as possible.

The peer group meets routinely each week, the schedule depending on the specific CPE program, 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 the 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 on the 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 CPE Supervisor weekly, giving students the 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' education, 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 supervisors—as an avenue for learning about ministry and ministry relationships. Through these relationships, the issues of trust, respect, differences, assertiveness, confrontation and conflict are practiced, experienced and reflected upon as a way to grow in the self-awareness and skills needed for ministry.

CPE Supervisors

The Rev. Hanci Newberry is an ordained Episcopal priest, a Board Certified Chaplain and a certified ACPE CPE Supervisor. She has a M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School and a B.A. in Religion from the College of William and Mary. Rev. Newberry is the Director of the Department of Chaplaincy and CPE. She currently supervises the CPE Residency.

Learn More About the CPE Program

Learn more about the CPE programs and how to apply:
Hanci Newberry
Department of Chaplaincy and CPE
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
S594 Rhodes Hall
410 West 10th Ave.
Columbus, OH 43210-1228

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center CPE program is accredited by The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc. to offer Level I and Level II CPE. ACPE, Inc., One West Court Square, Suite 325, Decatur, GA 30030; Tel: 404-320-1472; acpe@acpe.edu; www.acpe.edu​​​​​​​​

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