Strengthening Chaplaincy Certification with Research: APC, NACC and Transforming Chaplaincy Launch Initial Research

For years, certification by one of the major professional chaplaincy organizations such as the Board of Chaplaincy Certification Inc. (BCCI, an affiliate of the Association of Professional Chaplains) or the National Association of Catholic Chaplains has been the gold standard for professional chaplains working in health care. Recent developments in healthcare, chaplaincy, and chaplaincy education suggest it is time to examine our current chaplaincy education and certification processes to ensure they are continuing this tradition of excellence and serving the profession as well as possible. Specifically, the time seems right to begin developing a research-informed approach to chaplaincy certification.


To begin this journey, APC and NACC have contracted with Transforming Chaplaincy to conduct a qualitative research study, including a series of interviews to identify the strengths and weaknesses of current certification processes. Interviewees will include:  1) chaplains who have recently met with certification committees (both successfully and unsuccessfully); 2) chaplains who serve on certification committees; 3) experienced chaplains who know the competencies needed for the work they do; and 4) spiritual care department managers who need competent chaplains to work in their departments. From these interviews, we hope to begin to learn if current certification processes focus on the right competencies and whether they can be evaluated objectively. Building a research-informed approach to chaplaincy certification will not be accomplished with a few small studies. The aim of these projects is to outline the issues and guide future, more rigorous research that will help the professional chaplaincy organizations maintain the highest standards for certification.


The research is being led by George Fitchett and Daniel Grossoehme. The work is being guided by an Advisory Committee that includes representatives of the sponsoring organizations (APC, NACC), as well other Strategic Partners. The work will begin in summer 2018; preliminary findings will be reported at the 2019 chaplaincy conferences.


Members of APC and NACC are welcome to submit comments about the certification process and suggestions for a research-informed approach to certification. Further questions about the project are also welcome. To share comments, suggestions, or questions, please contact Daniel Grossoehme (


George Fitchett, DMin, PhD, BCC, is Professor and Director of Research, Department of Religion, Health, and Human Values at Rush University Medical Center and Co-Director of Transforming Chaplaincy. Daniel Grossoehme, DMin, BCC is Associate Professor, Pulmonary Medicine and Staff Chaplain III at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He is a Transforming Chaplaincy Co-Investigator.

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