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Pastoral Care Programs

Association for Clinical Pastoral Education Training

Since 1960, New York Methodist Hospital has maintained an accredited Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Program (accredited by  the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc.). Today, the program is a stipended one-year residency, comprising three-units of training, and integrating the Chaplain Residents fully into hospital ministry, from patient visitation and support for hospital staff to participation in multidisciplinary rounds. Their assignments will rotate the Residents through not only medical/surgical units, but onto specialty units including, critical care, obstetrics, oncology, pediatrics and rehabilitation.

Applying for CPE Training

The Application selection process for this CPE Program is as follows:

  • There are two basic criteria for applying to NYM’s CPE Residency: It is preferred that applicants have one previous unit of CPE at an ACPE, Inc. accredited training center; and an M.Div. or comparable theological training.
  • Candidates are required to complete the standard ACPE application form.
  • Applications may be e-mailed, but the original of any previous CPE supervisor’s Final Evaluation must be photocopied and posted to us. *
  • Applicants considered appropriate for the program will then be contacted for an interview by the Supervisor at New York Methodist.
  • From this initial group of candidates, the Supervisor selects those who will participate based on the following:
    • The candidate’s openness and flexibility, which enable her to reflect personally and professionally on her involvement in ministry.
    • A candidate’s ability to think theologically about the data of human experience in the hospital.
    • An attempt to assure heterogeneity in the final group, i.e. a balanced proportion of male and female participation, a mixture of religious backgrounds, and personality types.


* Applicants with previous CPE experience, please note: The Final Evaluation(s) by previous CPE supervisor(s) required to accompany your standard ACPE application must be obtained by you and forwarded to us. We do not contact previous center(s) to obtain them.

Program Description

Relationship of Setting to CPE Training

When students enter the Clinical Pastoral Education Program at NYM Hospital, they enter a religiously oriented, multidisciplinary community of healthcare professionals. As new members of this community, they immediately find themselves interacting with other members from doctors, nurses, and technicians to social workers, therapists, and administrators. Through the interrelatedness of these disciplines, students quickly come to understand the concept of “holistic healthcare” and the integral role of pastoral care.

While a chaplain’s responsibilities are clearly stipulated, what is purposely not defined at the beginning of training is how the student-chaplain should relate to other members of the community: The how-to’s will be answered experientially and through reflection on the issues that arise for the individual.

The lessons learned in this way are far-reaching. For instance, the student’s reflection on how he relates to other staff members, as well as to his supervisor, may help him understand how he relates to “authority figures” in general. The student may then be able to see how he relates to God and the Church as authorities. This, in turn, may lead the student to reflect on how he senses his own authority, as both person and minister.

Vital to the learning that will occur in the student’s new community of NYM are the lessons she brings from the communities of her upbringing, family, culture and religion. As she struggles to define the meaning of ministry for herself in the hospital setting, the student will always be asked to factor in influences from her personal background.

Dual Commitment Required Upon Acceptance

When a student is accepted into the Clinical Pastoral Education Program at New York Methodist Hospital, he makes a double commitment: the first, “to offer a ministry to patients, their families and staff”; the second, “to reflect upon that ministry” through a planned academic program that includes submission of written materials, participation in seminars, and individual supervisory conferences.

Reflection is essential to clinical ministry. During training, the student will respond to real life situations unlike any he has met before. These experiences can challenge his theology, and even his beliefs about basic human psychology. It is through reflection on the questions raised for him, that the student-chaplain’s understanding of ministry grows. In this same way, he becomes more aware of how his personal responses influence that ministry. When reflected upon, any experience will be a learning experience.

The curriculum introduces the student to three areas of reflection to strengthen and keep her ministry vital: the intra-personal, the interpersonal, and the conceptual. Over the course of her training, the student will come to identify the issues significant to her in each of these areas, as well as the ways in which they are related to each other.


Learning Through Patient Care

Each student-chaplain is assigned to patient-units where he is responsible for religious ministry to patients, their families, and staff as though the units were his congregation. As the student becomes involved in the variety of situations that arise in his assigned areas, his definition of religious ministry broadens. He is able to evaluate how his theology speaks to human experience and how new experience informs his theology.

Although questions of faith or ethics are easily identified as the business of religious ministry, the student-chaplain soon finds that he is being turned to with patient concerns about such things as relationships within family, relationships with staff, his or her self-image, financial difficulties, or post-discharge planning. With the help of the CPE supervisor, the student will determine what the chaplain’s role can be in particular cases and how to set priorities on any assigned unit/congregation.

Because chaplains are involved with long-term illness as well as crisis situations, they have the opportunity to observe the physical/emotional/spiritual cycles of particular illnesses. By way of their on-going contact with patients and families, student-chaplains will see the effects of illness on all involved, and learn about family dynamics, family dynamics in crisis, and the influence of family dynamics on the healing process. Often, what the chaplains learn illuminates issues in their own families of origin, which on reflection gives them new insights into themselves, their ministries, and their feelings about ministry.

The selection of patient-units to which a student is assigned will be made with an eye to making as varied a hospital ministry experience as possible. The broader the student-chaplain’s exposure, the greater her opportunities to find not only the areas of her pastoral strengths but the situations that create the greatest difficulty for her. As she learns to identify those difficulties, she can also develop effective ways to deal with them.


Basic Structure of Program

Each unit of training lasts eleven to thirteen weeks. The Monday-Friday schedule is from 8:45 A.M. to 4:45 P.M. Students begin each weekday with Morning Report. At this time the Duty Chaplain for the previous twenty-four hour period reports any calls received, with particular attention to those that need follow-up. The Duty Chaplain will also offer a brief devotion at this time, as we begin the day together in one community. Students rotate Duty-Chaplain responsibilities on a daily basis. Of the student’s weekly schedule, approximately eight hours are spent in seminar. An additional hour each week is spent in an individual supervisory session.

In the beginning of the program-year, each student draws up a contract stating personal goals and objectives for the training period. By putting these in writing, the student takes on an active role in planning the curriculum, the hallmarks of which will be experiential learning and making connections between experience, emotional responses and theology through reflection, seminars and supervisory sessions.

As noted above, ministry is not explicitly defined for the student. Rather, it is through his work with patients, and reflection on it with fellow students and the CPE supervisor, that the student-chaplain gradually defines ministry for himself. In the continuing interplay between the experiential and the didactic, the student comes to identify the ways in which his personality, personal background, and theology affect his understanding of the role of chaplain. In time, it becomes quite clear how these affect his actual functioning in pastoral care. It is believed that these methods and the practice of reflection cultivated in CPE training will be useful to the student throughout her life as minister and counselor.


Didactic Seminar

The Didactic Seminar introduces students to the general hospital structure and to the various functions of the staff involved in “holistic healthcare.” This type of seminar may also focus on specific issues in pastoral care, or the relationship between pastoral care and other disciplines.

Interpersonal Group Seminar

Students meet regularly in this unstructured peer-group seminar. The group is the forum to which a student may bring professional and personal concerns on which she wishes to reflect or receive peer feedback. Feedback about oneself in the small-community setting of the group often applies to other areas, as well. A student may see, for example, that the reactions of her fellow students are similar to reactions she has sensed from patients and staff. As a group member, the student can learn more about herself as a person and as a pastor, while deepening her understanding of personality development and the functioning of groups themselves.

Verbatim and Case Study Seminars

Students present written verbatims and case studies to the peer group for feedback. A verbatim scripts and evaluates a specific visit, while a case study examines more generally the person of the patient. Each illuminates the relationship of the chaplain with the patient and incorporates theological and psychological reflection upon the particular situation.


Individual Supervisory Conference

The student meets for one hour each week in private with his supervisor. It is the responsibility of the student to set the agenda for the supervisory conference. The student is free to use the supervisor as a resource for reflecting upon any concern or aspect of the program he wishes.

Stipend & Benefits: Because these may be subject to annual adjustments, inquiries should be made at the time of application.

Contact: Chaplain Peter Poulos
Department of Pastoral Care
New York Methodist Hospital
506 Sixth Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215-9008
718.780.3393