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Chaplain education program taught at LaGrange

Just as doctors learn how to heal the body by completing their residency programs, at Adventist LaGrange Memorial Hospital, chaplains are being taught to heal the soul through their own education course.  During the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program, students are taught pastoral care by a process of action and reflection that allows students to learn from real life ministry experiences. 

The program is currently training seven students during this residency opportunity designed for those seeking further education and professional certification as a chaplain.  The students are directed by a Supervisor of Clinical Pastoral Education who focuses on the students’ personal growth and allows them to develop methods of dealing with people in a crisis.

“By the end of this training, I want the students to be able to provide compassionate, committed, and non-judgmental ministry to patients,” said Chaplain Supervisor John Bollinger.  “It is important for them to offer hope and encouragement to those patients who are suffering and alone.”
The students are able to work with patients and receive help from chaplain mentors at all four Adventist Midwest Health hospital campuses. Their days begin with classroom interaction at Adventist LaGrange Memorial Hospital, where they are able to read and reflect on their weekly journals and verbatims, written word-for-word accounts of their encounters with patients, in order to gain a better understanding of the different types of scenarios that may occur.  Once a week, the students are also required to be on-call overnight to care for patients in need.

“This program is teaching us that we can’t heal these patients, but we can invite them to a closer walk with God as they face difficult times,” said Jenny Tillay, chaplain at Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital.  “I take comfort knowing that I plant the seeds of hope and healing, but God makes these seeds grow.”

According to Tillay, the CPE program encourages students to look at themselves.  It is a forced reflection that lets them review the themes of their lives, so they may better counsel patients in need.  The program also allows the students to support one another as they each create their own learning goals.

“This program is great because everyone has such different goals, yet we all work together to achieve them,” said student clinical pastor Grace Brouwer, RN.  “CPE is also teaching me how to provide encouragement and strength to patients in the worst of times.”

The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education offers Level I CPE, Level II CPE, and Supervisory CPE.  Students must complete each level in sequence before moving to the next level.  The program is usually offered in single units, 10 to 12 weeks at accredited teaching centers.  However, students may participate in a year long residency program that would consist of three to four units.  Those seeking professional certification as chaplains are required to do four units of CPE.  Since 2007, Adventist Midwest Health has conducted four units of CPE training and 27 students have gone through the program.

“We are honored to host CPE training at Adventist LaGrange Memorial Hospital,” said John Rapp, regional vice president of ministries and mission at Adventist Midwest Health. “The program provides our students with the opportunity to experience new understanding of ministry through theological reflection.”