Pastoral Care Services and Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is thriving at University of Kentucky Healthcare. Several professional staff chaplains and CPE students serve throughout the facilities of UK HealthCare. This includes the original and new buildings that make up Chandler Medical Center, Markey Cancer Center, Kentucky Children’s Hospital, and Good Samaritan Hospital. A level 1 trauma center, UK HealthCare is committed to excellence in patient centered care alongside state of the art technology and research in care specialties that include neuroscience, cardiology, organ transplant, oncology and pediatrics. In an environment such as this, the need for spiritual care abounds. Concerns range from anticipatory end of life care, the acute grief of sudden or traumatic loss, as well as meaning-making and a wide range of celebrations. Most every medical concern that calls for hospitalization has implications of spiritual concern as well.
Rev. Joe Alverson, MDiv, BCC, Director of Pastoral Care Services, came to UK HealthCare eight years ago as its night shift chaplain. His vision as department director for the past five years was to see pastoral care services be significantly strengthened in scope of service, and then to see the education program that previously existed at UK HealthCare from 1967-2008 begin again. Last summer 2013, Rev. Dr. Cam Holzer, BCC, ACPE Supervisor was recruited. She runs the now resumed CPE Center, a graduate level training program based directly out of UK HealthCare, accredited with the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education. The current chaplaincy staff employs seven full-time professional chaplains and several part-time chaplains as well as the department director and clinical pastoral education supervisor. The department now also runs three CPE intern programs a year, graduating around 15 students annually. This combined chaplaincy team enables 24-7 in-house coverage at Chandler, and weekday and weeknight coverage at Good Samaritan.
Why have highly trained chaplains like this? “We respond to every code blue and trauma case as part of the interdisciplinary team. We are there for emotional and spiritual support,”Alverson explained. Holzer provided further detail, “We are not there so much to fix things or give answers in the face of an extraordinarily difficult circumstance, but to care directly about the persons going through such things. We seek to give people an emotionally supportive space.” Alverson reiterated that, “We meet people where they are.” Healthcare chaplains are not there to proselytize, both were adamant. “We are here primarily to listen and respond to expressed spiritual need rather than a common tendency toward emphasis on preaching or teaching common of many ministry orientations and contexts. This often is a paradigm shift for many ministry students,” Holzer stated.
Holzer described the ministry of care as suspending personal agenda when entering a patient room; “It is a ministry dedicated to paying attention.” Ministry students learn to attend to their own anxiety, and more fully access their capacity to offer genuine, emotionally-connected compassion. Much of the training focuses on deepening a ministry student’s self-awareness, and enables persons to “know themselves more deeply in an interfaith context,” Holzer stated. The CPE programs bring students from across the nation and the world who represent a wide range of multi-faith and cultural backgrounds.
UK HealthCare has separate programs that run in the Summer, Fall and Spring. Each is a 400-hour service and education commitment, which provides one unit of CPE. Students may be engaged in seminary or theological studies and be able to receive CPE for academic credit. Other students have completed their academic degrees and serve as local clergy or chaplains, and want to deepen their pastoral care capacity. Sometimes students are lay persons with pastoral care responsibilities. For those who seek to be board certified professional chaplains, four units of CPE is required as well as completion of a graduate theological degree. The Spring 2015 program is already full. The Summer 2015 unit runs June 1-August 14; and the Fall 2015 program will run early September through mid-December. Those with further interest in CPE at UK HealthCare can inquire by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 859-323-4140. Additional information about Clinical Pastoral Education can be located at www.acpe.edu.