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Clinical Pastoral Education - Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)?

CPE is experience‐based theological education and pastoral formation for seminarians, clergy, and lay persons of diverse cultures, ethnic groups and faith traditions. In CPE you join other women and men who are currently in ministry or are preparing for it. Some may be healthcare professionals who come to CPE to enhance their work pastorally. Most are Christian, but CPE welcomes qualified persons across faith traditions.

2. What does clinical mean in CPE?

First of all, clinical describes the basic methodology of CPE: reflecting on experience. You may call it process education; you begin with experience, reflect on it, and act. “What did you learn?” is a common question in CPE. Secondly, clinical refers to your ministry site, which can be at Mercy Springfield or Mercy Oklahoma City for residency or the summer intensive. For extended CPE, options are available through out the Mercy system in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. With approval from the CPE managers, it is also possible for you to arrange for a ministry site in your area and participate in classroom education by video conference. At your clinical site you provide pastoral care which is a key component of your learning.

3. Is the CPE program accredited?

CPE at Mercy has been accredited since 1974. The program is accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE), making it one of some 350 ACPE‐accredited CPE centers in the United States. Mercy’s CPE program is accredited to offer Level I and Level II CPE as well as Educator CPE.

4. What is a unit of CPE?

According to Standards, a unit of CPE is at least 100 hours of structured group and individual education. Each unit shall be accompanied by supervised clinical practice in ministry. The combined time shall be no less than 400 hours.

5. What is meant by structured group and individual education?

Within any unit of Level I/Level II CPE you will be part of a peer group (minimum of three but usually more) who learn from case studies, critique and feedback on your practice of ministry. Peer groups also critique each other’s verbatims, which are word‐by‐word reviews of a pastoral visit. You work with a qualified supervisor who is first and foremost a pastoral educator, a companion in your own pastoral formation process. This educator has pastoral experience and a Master of Divinity or the equivalent. By certifying as a CPE educator, he/she has pursued three to six years of post-graduate work.

6. What is individual supervision?

Students meet with their CPE educator for about an hour during which they discuss ministry events, personal issues, theological questions, peer relationships, or any other experiences that might have an impact on their ministry and/or their pastoral identity.

7. What kinds of CPE programs does Mercy offer?

Mercy is accredited to offer Level I ‐ II and Educator CPE:

  • Level I CPE – addresses the fundamentals of pastoral formation, pastoral competence, and pastoral reflection through one or more CPE units. Satisfactory achievement of Level I outcomes is a prerequisite for doing Level II CPE.
  • Level II CPE – addresses the development and integration of pastoral formation, pastoral competence and pastoral reflection to a level of competence that permits participants to pursue professional certification as a chaplain and/or admission to Educator CPE.
  • Educator CPE – addresses the development as CPE supervisor in integration of Supervisory theory and practice, following the educational contract and format of Mercy CPE.

8. In what formats does Mercy offer CPE?

Mercy offers CPE in four formats:

  • Extended unit, part time over four months with clinical placement at a Mercy facility, designed primarily for persons exploring chaplaincy as a possible career, seeking ordination in their denomination, or desiring to hone their pastoral skills. One unit of CPE
  • Virtual unit, part time over four months with clinical placement arranged by agreement between student and CPE educator, designed primarily for persons without access to an accredited CPE center near them who are exploring chaplaincy as a possible career, seeking ordination in their denomination, or desiring to hone their pastoral skills. One unit of CPE
  • Summer unit, full time over 11 weeks, designed primarily for persons seeking ordination in their denomination, but not limited to seminarians. One unit of CPE
  • Residency, 12-month, full-time program, designed for persons preparing to become professional certified chaplains, planning to pursue Educator CPE, or are seeking advanced leadership and pastoral skills for ministry. Four units of CPE

9. What is the Extended Unit CPE program?

The extended and virtual programs run concurrently over 17 weeks with six hours of classroom education per week, individual supervision, and an average of 17 clinical hours per week on site at a Mercy facility or other approved placement.

10. What is the Summer CPE program?

This is a full time 11-week program. Group and clinical work and individual supervision will be Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The student will also work with a staff chaplain on a pre-determined number of weekend days, evening, or nights to provide pastoral care throughout the hospital. 

11. What is the Residency CPE program?

The residency is a 12-month, full time program. Group and clinical work and individual supervision will be Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Students also provide weekend and night coverage in rotation with staff chaplains. Preference on selection will be give to students who have at least 36 hours of theological education toward a master’s degree, or the equivalent combination of apprenticeship/mentoring and experience according to their faith tradition that would meet standards for board certification. 

12. How many positions are in the CPE Residency program?

At least three in Springfield, MO and three in Oklahoma City, OK.

13. Is an on‐site interview required for a CPE Residency?

An on-site interview is preferred. However, arrangements can be made for a video interview due to COVID restrictions or other extenuating circumstance.

14. Do I need to be ordained to be considered for a CPE Residency?

Ordination is not required. Since Clinical Pastoral Education is a graduate-level program, successful applicants will have completed a bachelor’s degree and at least half of the coursework for a master’s degree appropriate for chaplaincy (theology, pastoral ministry, divinity, etc.). For spiritual traditions with leadership development based in apprenticeship or mentoring, educational equivalency that will meet standards for board certification will also be considered. For all CPE programs, the Mercy Pastoral Education Center looks for applicants who are active and rooted in their faith tradition and who have been in service in some way in their local faith community.

15. Do you accept international applicants in the residency program?

We will accept international applications from persons who have resided in the U.S. for at least one year prior to the application and who have completed at least a single unit of ACPE CPE.

16. Do you offer a 2nd year Residency?

We do not currently offer a 2nd year residency. You may be able to find an offering through the ACPE website, www.acpe.edu.

17. What kind of orientation do I receive if I do CPE at Mercy?

The first day you will join new Mercy coworkers for orientation to the ministry, history, and values of the organization. You will receive orientation to your clinical site from department staff before you begin to see patients on your own.

18. What is the cost of doing CPE at Mercy?

There is a $25.00 non‐refundable application fee to be sent with the application. Tuition for each unit of CPE is: Residency – per unit $400, Summer Unit - $500, Extended - $500, Virtual - $1200, Employee - $400.

19. Is there a stipend for CPE at Mercy?

For the summer and the extended unit there is no stipend. The CPE Residency pays a stipend, computed at $17.00/hr. subject to state and federal withholdings. CPE residents also receive benefits at the same rates as other Mercy coworkers. A person in Educator CPE receives Mercy coworker benefits and earns a salary in the range for chaplains at Mercy.

20. Do you have any scholarships available?

At the present time, we have none available. You may be able to find financial support through your faith community.

21. How can I learn more about chaplain certification?

The following websites provide information that can be downloaded:

22. How can I learn more about becoming a Certified Educator for CPE?

Information can be downloaded from the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) website at www.acpe.edu.

23. How do I apply for CPE at Mercy?

You can download an application and directions from this website or from www.acpe.edu (Tab: Education and then Tab: CPE Application), the website of Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE). Mail your completed form with attachments to:

Mercy Hospital-5H
Attn: Michelle Barone
Pastoral Education Center
1235 East Cherokee
Springfield MO 65804
e-mail: mercycpe@mercy.net

If you have questions regarding the application process, you may call the Mercy Pastoral Services/CPE offices: 417-820-7061 or 417-820-2735.

When your application has been received, it will be reviewed for completeness and quality. If deemed appropriate for the program, you will be contacted for an interview to:

  • explore further what you have written in your application materials
  • answer your questions about CPE and specifically about the program at Mercy
  • discern whether this program is a good fit for your learning interests.

24. Will you accept my application electronically?

Yes, we will. Address the application to mercycpe@mercy.net. Please follow-up by submitting a hard copy application, with your $25 application fee, by mail, or deliver it in person. Your application will not be considered complete until the processing fee has been received.

25. Where do CPE participants at Mercy do their clinical work?

Residents do their clinical work at Mercy Springfield or Mercy Oklahoma City. Summer interns and extended interns can be placed at any hospital in the system where the student will have an appropriate mentor. Virtual students work out an arrangement with the CPE educator for their clinical site.

26. Can I do some of my clinical work at a place other than Mercy?

At times it is possible to do some of the clinical hours at a place other than Mercy, provided certain conditions are met. These conditions include a site placement agreement, on‐site mentoring by a qualified individual(s), visits of the CPE Educator to the site. The details of such an arrangement are individualized to the situation.

27. Do you provide housing for CPE participants?

Mercy’s CPE program itself does not have housing, but we will work with a person to identify area possibilities.

28. I am interested in chaplaincy certification but want to do it through NACC. Would your program help me?

The CPE curriculum at Mercy is designed with both APC and NACC Standards in mind, as well as those of the accrediting body, ACPE. When you successfully complete a residency at Mercy, you have at least four units of CPE, which are required for certification. Alumni of Mercy’s program have successfully achieved both NACC and APC chaplain certification.

29. Are there chaplain jobs?

As in most fields, the answer is mixed. If you are willing to relocate, you will have more possibilities. People who complete Mercy’s residency program have a good track record on employment.

30. Are there educator positions after certification?

There are many educator positions that become available every year across the USA. You may have to relocate. Mercy educators will support Educator CPE students at the end of their program with their job search with contacts, resume and cover letter review, and coaching. 

31. How is Mercy’s CPE program accredited?

Mercy’s CPE program is accredited through

The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc.

55 Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard, Suite 835
Atlanta, GA 30308
(404) 320-1472
Email: acpe@acpe.edu.
Web: www.acpe.edu

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