The chaplain is a full member of the health care team who provides for the pastoral needs of patients/residents/clients, families, and staff. Specifically, the chaplain, through professional training and certification, assists patients/residents/clients to understand more fully life’s events as they relate to their spiritual and emotional well-being. From the patient’s/resident’s/client’s life experience, the chaplain may offer prayer or reflection.
Spiritual care providers work as chaplains in hospitals, psychiatric facilities, rehabilitation facilities, long term care facilities, and hospice programs. In addition, many churches and religious congregations hire spiritual care providers to care for their members who are infirm or bereaved. Moreover, spiritual care providers can obtain positions as chaplains in a variety of institutions such as schools, prisons and the military. Some spiritual care providers also find employment in industry as chaplains and employment assistance counselors.
With the importance of the spiritual dimension of health and healing well established, more and more healthcare institutions are providing for the spiritual care of their patients. The presence of the chaplain in the hospital is therefore assured. In addition, with the focus of health care being shifted more and more to the outpatient setting, opportunities are opening up for creative spiritual care providers to make places for themselves in clinics and in alternative and complementary medicine settings.
To become a certified chaplain, you will need to complete a Master of Divinity degree or its equivalent as well as four units (1,600 hours) of clinical pastoral education. Today, most hospitals hire only chaplains who are certified or are eligible for certification. In other settings, the requirements may be less strictly adhered to.
Locally, most chaplain candidates complete their Master of Divinity degree either at Yale Divinity School or at Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, MA. At least some of the coursework towards the degree may also be taken at Hartford Seminary, St. Joseph College or Sacred Heart University.
Clinical pastoral education is offered at a number of Hospitals around Connecticut such as St. Francis Hospital and Stamford Hospital. For a complete listing, you can check the website of the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc., listed below.
The State of Connecticut does not license or certify chaplains. Chaplains are certified by the Association of Professional Chaplains, or, for those who are Roman Catholic, by the National Association of Catholic Chaplains.
Association of Professional Chaplains
1701 E. Woodfield Road, Suite 400
Schaumburg, IL 60173
National Association of Jewish Chaplains
901 Route 10
Whippany, NJ 07981-1156