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ACPE-CPE Program Curriculum Elements

The program of clinical pastoral education at Legacy Health is a relevant part of graduate theological education for persons in ministry. The clinical pastoral education program acts as a teacher, facilitator and guide. It is up to the student to make it work.

The program's focus is:

  • Dynamic: Evolving from a student's need and interest to learn in different ways at different paces, guided by self, peers and written evaluations. It is informed by theological, cultural, psychosocial and system understanding of humanity.
  • Holistic: Directed toward the development and integration of the student's own gifts and limitations, awareness of self in relation with others and ability to use learning resources.
  • Comprehensive: Clinical pastoral education introduces the students to areas of pastoral formation, personal reflection and professional competency. Students will also learn how to use theoretical tools to minister to persons, family and staff facing the continuum of health and illness. The program's objectives occur within the structure of ACPE standards, which include areas of professional development in parish ministry, chaplaincy and other relevant areas of ministry.
These are the main elements of the curriculum:

Pastoral ministry

Each student chooses a clinical area(s) within the hospital that coincides with his/her own learning covenant. These clinical areas include: adult trauma, pediatrics, women's health, psychiatry, burn patients and adult acute care units. She or he is responsible to provide at least five hours of pastoral care through daily patient/family visitation and collaborative relational development with the health care team. This unique opportunity provides various experiences in which the student has an opportunity to establish a basic level of trust, which in turn, fosters an openness to learning and experiencing deeper relationships, varied lifestyles, beliefs and self-knowledge. This can serve to help the student in identifying, developing and differentiating their own unique ministry.

Didactic seminars

Didactic seminars facilitate a working knowledge of pastoral content, personality theory, leadership development, cultural/gender theory and medical practice. This understanding of humanity informs, enhances or limits the student's pastoral work. These seminars are scheduled weekly for one hour.

Group supervision

Group provides a time for students to share both their thoughts and feelings about working with patients, families, staff, other students and the supervisor. The purpose is to help the student become aware of how he/she receives and responds to support, clarification and confrontation with regard to his/her own attitudes, values and beliefs. On a weekly basis there are two supervised interpersonal open groups of 60 minutes; two supervised verbatim case conferences at 90 minutes per session; five 15 minute on-call and administrative report times; and one didactic session of 60 minutes.

Individual supervision

This is a weekly time, in dialogue between student and supervisor to individualize, integrate and plan opportunities for personal/professional growth. As active partners in the learning process, the student is invited to take significant responsibility for initiating issues that are important for learning by providing written material and reflection on pastoral ministry.


Each student has the opportunity on a weekly rotational basis to prepare and present a brief devotional experience for patients, family members and hospital staff who wish to attend chapel or alternative worship possibilities on Wednesdays and Sundays, especially during holy seasons. The student also provides, as appropriate, an on-call administrative report giving a brief summary of pastoral events that have occurred during their on-call experience. On-call usually includes an addition of 15 hours of service. This responsibility is shared with staff chaplains, who respond to the needs of patients, families and staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week on the Legacy Emanuel campus.

Reading requirements

Both summer interns and year-long residents report on a research project per unit; the topic is chosen based on learning needs and interests developed through the individualized learning covenant. The student has the opportunity to become both presenter and teacher through verbal and written report in a peer/interdisciplinary didactic session.

Writing requirements

At the beginning of each unit of training, a covenant of learning is developed and completed as mutually agreed upon by the student and supervisor. The covenant is open to negotiation as the need arises and the student becomes aware of new ways to enrich their pastoral formation and reflection.

Verbatim and narrative reports on pastoral acts are written on a weekly basis. These tools of assessment and reflection are submitted for both group and individual supervision as part of the ongoing process of patient care. These serve to strengthen self-awareness, self-confidence and professional competence in delivering effective pastoral care.

Year-long residents attend a weekly one-hour, journal-writing seminar. This group experience helps students deepen and broaden their own inner reflective voice and discover the impact their unique narrative history has on their life and ministry.

For year-long residents (beginning their third and continuing on through their fourth unit), a self-study project is developed and reported upon. This 8-10 page paper may focus on their understanding and integration of theology with human behavioral sciences.