CPE Programs' FAQ
What is Typical Student Life?
CPE students come from many different walks of life, with a wide variety of life experiences, and with various goals for their CPE experience. However diverse they may be in other ways, they have a common goal to enter into an intense and practical learning experience in a small group setting. People can gain self-insight in other ways. They can learn pastoral care in other ways. They can gain experience working with people in other ways. They can receive feedback from peers and highly trained supervisors in other settings. They can minister to people in crisis and chronic situations at other places. However, CPE is one place where all these happen simultaneously.
What is a Typical Student Profile?
A wide variety of people take CPE at Lancaster General Health for a wide variety of reasons.
The age of students range from mid-twenties to mid-seventies, although there are no age limits. Currently more women are taking CPE than men, approximately 60% to 40%. Our students have been mostly from a Christian framework. However, students from other faith traditions are welcome. Of the Christians, students have come from approximately twenty different denominations. About fifty percent of our interns are seminarians. Twenty-five percent of our interns are seminary graduates who are engaged in professional ministry in congregations or institutions. The remaining quarter are lay people, who work as nurses, counselors, teachers, homemakers, and other professions. Most of our students are from European descent. Students from Central & South American, Asian, and African descent have enriched our program. Some students know what type of ministry they plan to do in the future and view CPE as preparation for their goals. Others are exploring ministry options and utilize CPE to clarify their call. Still others avail themselves of the training to enhance their current ministry.
What are Typical Student Experiences?
Prospective students often wonder what types of experiences they will encounter in the CPE training. While each person’s experience is unique and somewhat unpredictable, the following experiences are typical of what students encounter. Upon admission, every patient is provided the opportunity to request a visit from a chaplain. The chaplain assigned to a particular unit receives the request and initiates the visit. Some patients simply want a friendly visit and possibly prayer or Scripture reading. Other patients have concerns that they want to discuss, ranging from family relationships to the meaning of their illness to anticipated lifestyle changes. In addition to patient or family member requests for visits, staff members are trained to make referrals to chaplains. For example, when a patient is wrestling with a difficult decision, the chaplain can help the patient sort through the options and decide which option fits the patient’s values. Or the chaplain can help a patient identify how their religious resources can help during their illness. A frequent referral occurs at the time of death, especially an unexpected death. The chaplain provides support to the family as they begin the grief process. Chaplains also respond automatically to certain situations in the hospital. For example, Lancaster General Hospital is a trauma center and the chaplain is part of the trauma response team. Whenever a trauma occurs in Lancaster County or the western part of Chester County, the patient is brought to our trauma center. Common causes of traumas include car accidents, falls, farm accidents, and attacks. The chaplain’s role is to contact the family or friends of the patient and provide support to them during the initial treatment time. The chaplain provides a non-anxious presence during these crises. When not busy with referrals or crises, the chaplains can initiate visits to patients and families. Visiting patients on their assigned units can open the door to pastoral care opportunities. When families are gathered after normal visiting hours, the chaplain might check in with them to see if any support is needed. So, typical experiences of a CPE student include meeting a wide-range of people in various life situations to help them find ways to draw upon their spiritual resources during times of illness or injury.
What do the chaplains do at night?
During the night shift, the chaplain is available to respond to any pastoral care needs, such as emergencies or a patient who is anxious. The chaplain makes rounds, checks in with staff members, may work on educational assignments, and when not busy can sleep in the on-call room. For the interns, when they are not busy, they can sleep in the on-call room, which is similar to a small dorm room. On average, the intern gets at least a few hours of sleep. The residents, who are paid employees, rotate to night shift as part of their working schedule. Therefore, the residents are awake and working during the night making rounds or working on their educational assignments.
What do chaplains do anyway?
Chaplains provide spiritual and emotional support to patients, family members, and staff members. The goal of the chaplain is to meet people where they are and help them draw upon their spiritual resources. The chaplain is not evangelistic in the sense of trying to convert others to the chaplain’s beliefs.
What kind of job can I get after taking CPE?
CPE alone is not intended to prepare someone for a paying job. Combined with seminary, CPE is part of the preparation for pastoral ministry in a congregation. At least four units of CPE and a Master’s degree in theology can lead to certification and employment as a chaplain. Lay people utilize their CPE training to be more involved in the local congregations or be more attune to the spiritual needs in their professions. For example, some alumni have served as Stephen’s Ministers, Eucharistic Ministers, or lay hospital visitors. Others have used what they have learned to enhance their nursing, counseling, or teaching careers.