Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

CPE Curriculum Development Grants: Transforming Chaplaincy Education

by Kathryn Lyndes

The first round of CPE curriculum development grants were successful. Students demonstrated the importance of new chaplaincy curricula in several ways. First, the use of case studies helped students apply research to their chaplaincy work. Second, preparing literature reviews, writing article reviews, and participating in journal clubs all offered important opportunities to build research literacy skills. Third, staff who attended student case presentations were impressed with the level of presentation skills and depth of research content. These presentations also provided opportunities to educate allied staff about the work chaplains do. Overall, CPE residents found the new curricula to be highly useful. One said of their program “Not only did it help us attach real data to chaplaincy’s importance in positive medical outcomes; it also helped us learn to research topics that can be applied to future pastoral practice.”

Another said that the emphasis on research was a major factor in the student’s decision to return to CPE and pursue research about advanced directives.

The students also appreciated learning how research informs spiritual care, building professional confidence (e.g. finding literature via PubMed or Google Scholar and evaluating work); writing research questions; becoming stronger interdisciplinary team members; and advocating for chaplaincy staffing. Some students overcame initial reservations about research and became fascinated by the history of particular research questions.

One surprising outcome was that residents shared research with allied staff. One student, for example, read about patients’ experience of the ICU and noted that this research differed from staff conclusions.  A surgeon on a burn trauma unit told another student he was interested in reading her work on the experience of burn patients.  Another student was asked by unit nurses to present on self-care and compassion fatigue. Faculty from other disciplines came to realize the importance of spiritual care; one psychology researcher acknowledged that her research was limited by “not having a pastoral care practitioner with whom to work.” These types of collaborations extended beyond the clinical setting, too. Students relied on librarians to learn database search skills to locate articles of interest.

This first cohort of CPE curriculum development grants yielded important results for the future of chaplaincy education. With further refinement, these exciting and visionary programs will become standard in the field of chaplaincy, and Transforming Chaplaincy is proud of its contribution to the process.

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