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CPE Program FAQs

Read below for frequently asked questions about the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Program of Catholic Health Services (CHS) and the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

What is a typical day in CPE?

In the summer during the mornings, CPE students meet for instructional presentations, discussions of case studies and reflections. In the afternoon, the students visit hospital patients in the role of chaplains. During the extended program, students meet for instructional presentations, discussions of case studies and reflections one day a week in the morning and afternoon. Students visit hospital patients on days they arrange with the educator based on the flexible nature of the extended program.

What is individual supervision?

Students meet with a CPE educator for about an hour a week in the summer unit and every other week for the extended unit during which they discuss ministry events, personal issues and theological questions.

What is a learning contract?

Each CPE student develops learning goals around pastoral reflection, pastoral formation, pastoral competence or pastoral specializations.

How many CPE sessions can I miss?

Students are expected to attend all CPE activities. A conference with the educator is required if a student anticipates missing more than two days.

Will I be doing rotations or serve a particular hospital area?

Students have clinical assignments to specific hospital services. On their on-call shifts, students gain experience in all areas of the hospital.

How are the hospital staff chaplains involved with CPE students?

The staff chaplains act in the role of preceptors for CPE students. They help with orientation, shadowing and mentoring.

What does CPE prepare a person to do?

  • CPE develops skills for pastoral care for people in parish work, chaplaincy, lay ecclesial, ministry, teaching, counseling and other forms of ministry.
  • Many theological schools require CPE as part of their field education practicum, contextual education or supervised ministry internship.
  • Religious communities and diocese require CPE as part of their formation programs.
  • Many denominations require CPE as an element in their ordination track.
  • Professional chaplains and organizations require four units of CPE for board-certification as a chaplain.

Can one receive academic credit for a CPE unit?

Yes, if you are enrolled as a student in a seminary or graduate school of theology, and if your school grants credits for supervised practice or field work, you can get between 3 to 6 credits (depending on the school). However, if one is not enrolled as a student in an academic program, one cannot obtain academic credit.

How is the confidentiality of a CPE student protected?

CPE students are protected by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects the privacy of adult student education records. Click here for more information.

Student CPE evaluations are kept on file for ten years. The evaluations can only be released with the student's written permission.

How many overnight on-calls?

Each CPE program at CHS has an on-call requirement. There is an on-call requirement of two overnights and one weekend night per month, all included in the required hours for the program.

How do I apply?

Click here for the admission and application process. 

Be sure to set up an interview either with the CHS Clinical Pastoral Educator or, if out of state and unable to make an interview at CHS, arrange with a certified Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) educator in one's home locale. Have that educator conduct the interview and send a written report to the CHS Clinical Pastoral Educator. 

When should I apply?

Click here for more information about our programs. 

We receive many applications. Decisions are made on a rolling admission basis for each CPE unit.

How long does it take to find out if I am accepted?

Students can expect to wait several weeks for an answer.

Do I have to be ordained to do CPE?

No. CHS's CPE has seen seminarians, ordained ministers and priests, lay men and women, religious sisters and brothers, nurses and social workers enrolled in our program. Some will enroll in CPE as a requirement from their ordination body. Others desire to follow a career as a chaplain. Still others sign up for CPE for a personal growth experience or to discern a ministry direction.

I want to be a chaplain or a pastoral counselor. Do I need CPE?

The Association of Professional Chaplains, the National Association of Catholic Chaplains, the Neshama Association of Jewish Chaplains and other organizations certify chaplains. The American Association of Pastoral Counselors trains and certifies pastoral counselors. Some CPE is required as a prerequisite. You should contact these organizations directly about their requirements.

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