I thought I would have a hard time getting a CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) placement this summer because we were told to get our applications in by December. Unfortunately, we were told that on the 1st of December, when we had final seminar papers and final exams due, and then my daughter came home, and then I had to grade my students’ work, and then … I don’t know … I wanted to spend a LITTLE time with Jesus over Christmas. So I didn’t get my applications in until January 7th.
Now I have four interviews lined up. I already completed the first interview and hospital tour at St. Raphael’s Hospital in New Haven. This is one of two large hospitals in New Haven (the other being Yale-New Haven). I liked the people who interviewed me very much and enjoyed the tour, so I hope they accept me there. But I also am interviewing at 3 other hospitals and waiting to hear from another one.
Clinical Pastoral Education is (usually) hospital chaplaincy training, and it’s required of most seminarians who are completing the M.Div. degree, a degree intended to prepare people for professional ministry. I’m applying for a summer program, which will be a fulltime placement in the pastoral care department of a hospital for 10 or 11 weeks, depending on the hospital. St. Raphael’s includes a pastoral care chaplain on every “care” team in the hospital, so CPE students see a lot of patients and family members.
Our day consists of visiting people in the units we’ve been assigned to and answering pages for pastoral care–often when someone is dying or has just died. We also have peer group meetings with the pastoral care supervisor and the other CPE interns to talk about our interactions with patients, family members, and staff.
A few months ago, I was reluctant to undertake this because a fellow seminarian said she was an emotional wreck the whole time she was doing it. But then I spoke to some other people who found the experience very educational and enriching despite the difficult nature of the work, and I felt more encouraged to try it. The people interviewing me were very interested in the experience I’ve had with the early deaths of my mother, father, and brother, and I have to say: that is a sad qualification to have.
I am not sure how I feel about going back to the land of ICUs, CCUs, MICUs, and code blues. It saddens me that I know what those things are and have spent so much time in them with family members. I just don’t know how I will handle being in that environment 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. I said this much to the team of ministers interviewing me, and the pastoral care supervisor said, “That feeling will give you a lot of sympathy for the patients you visit, who are also feeling unsure in this environment.”