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Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association
In times of trouble, families are often asked if they would like a visit from a chaplain. The family might ask, "What is a chaplain?"
HCMA chaplains are Christian chaplains professionally trained to provide pastoral/spiritual care to people of all faiths at healthcare institutions worldwide. You may be interested in knowing how to find a local or remote chaplain or how to be trained in chaplaincy.
what's a chaplain?
A Professional Healthcare Chaplain is a theologically educated, pastorally experienced, and clinically trained minister who is certified by a professional chaplaincy organization and serves as an integral member of the healthcare team. The chaplain’s primary role is to provide spiritual/pastoral care to patients/residents, their family members, and the medical staff. In addition, professional chaplaincy care provides emotional, religious, and ethical care.
Healthcare Chaplain Duties:
In House Pastor for Staff: In the often stressful and demanding healthcare environment, an HCMA Chaplain is an understanding friend and confidant. The Chaplain can provide a listening ear and a pastoral point of view for the staff as they face professional and personal problems. Staff members who have no minister of their own often seek the Chaplain’s counsel, especially during times of personal family need or professional pressures.
Liaison for Local Clergy: Usually the healthcare Chaplain sees a patient/resident before his or her minister is aware of the hospitalization. With the patient/resident’s permission, the Chaplain can call the family pastor, priest, rabbi, or other religious leader. The Chaplain provides pastoral care and support until the patient/resident’s own minister arrives.
Contact for the Community: Serving often as the healthcare facility’s religious community public relations person, the Chaplain is able to coordinate services provided by the community clergy. The Chaplain is prepared to conduct seminars and workshops on topics such as patient/resident visitation, terminal illness, death and dying, and the grieving process. The Chaplain is available also to speak in churches when the regular minister is away.
Support for Patients’/Residents’ Families: The Chaplain is available to help with the distressed families of critically ill or dying patients/residents. If the patient/resident does not have his or her own minister, the Chaplain may serve as trusted friend and pastoral figure.
Chaplaincy training is a growing area with HCMA. Here are our core chaplain certifications. Contact the office if you have questions about other available trainings.
Board Certified Chaplain (BCC)
A deep study to become a healthcare chaplain will include a Master's Degree in Theology, ordained, "a calling", 4 units of clinical pastoral care ministry in the healthcare setting and more.
Certified Clinical Chaplain (CCC)
Professional certification as an HCMA Certified Clinical Chaplain (CCC) is a recognition of the attainment of specialized education and experience as a clinically competent Chaplain who is qualified to provide chaplaincy care in the healthcare setting. This is a person who does not meet the qualifications for BCC (either ordination and/or theological education), but has completed 4 Units of clinical pastoral education and more.
HCMA has been involved in chaplaincy care — training and certifying healthcare chaplains — since 1939. It is committed to excellence in both its clinical pastoral education program as well as its professional certification of healthcare chaplains.
HCMA is a member of the Network on Ministry in Specialized Settings (COMISS Network) and is recognized by them as a professional pastoral care and certification organization. In addition, The Joint Commission has always recognized HCMA Chaplains as one example of how their standard for pastoral care services can be met in healthcare facilities and programs. In the 1998 publication of the Source (a publication of the JCAHO), it cited an example for HR.2 as: “chaplain, qualified—An individual who is certified and in good standing with a pastoral care cognate group recognized by the Coalition on Ministry in Specialized Settings/Joint Commission on Accreditation of Pastoral Services (COMISS/JCAPS); or who is certified and in good standing with other chaplain certifying agencies such as the Hospital Chaplains’ Ministry of America (HCMA)1 ; or who has the documented equivalent in education, training and experience, with evidence of relevant continuing education.”
1 Emphasis added. HCMA was incorporated as the Healthcare Chaplains’ Ministry of America, Inc. in 1957 and does business as the Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association since 2008.
Finding Help in Remote Areas
Do you live in a remote area of the United States? Chaplains are available to reach you. Please contact the office.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted"
The mission of HCMA is to select, train, certify, and encourage Christian Chaplains who are professionally competent to provide pastoral / spiritual care to people of all faiths at healthcare institutions worldwide.
The world of the healthcare system is unique, demanding and challenging. In order to gain respect and recognition as one enters this environment, the healthcare Chaplain needs to come prepared with highly developed knowledge, skills and character that will command the respect and recognition the position warrants. The HCMA Clinical Pastoral Education Program, therefore, is designed to prepare the Chaplain-Trainee to become a worthy ambassador for Jesus Christ in the healthcare ministry to which God has called him/her.
The following explains the values and principles that form the foundation for the HCMA perspective on chaplaincy care within the healthcare setting.
The training philosophy of HCMA tends to have more of a pastoral/spiritual emphasis than a psychological ministry emphasis.
The training philosophy of HCMA tends to be more vertical (eternal) focused than horizontal (temporal) focused in its ministry to patients and residents.
The training philosophy of HCMA tends to have a greater emphasis on personal ministry to individual needs rather than on doing case studies.
Value of a Chaplain
Medical Care Facilities might ask the value of an HCMA chaplain.
The professional pastoral/spiritual care services of an HCMA Board Certified Chaplain (BCC) or Certified Clinical Chaplain (CCC) provide several distinct benefits to a healthcare facility.
Patient Well-Being Is Improved
Patient/Family Satisfaction Is Enhanced
Staff Retention and Productivity Is Improved
Risk Management and Litigation Is Mitigated
Valuable Assistance in Death Care
Accreditation Standards Are Met
Medical Ethics Support Is Improved
Community Relations Are Enhanced
What Patients Say…
Clinical Training INfo
The purpose of the HCMA Clinical Pastoral Education Curriculum is to prepare qualified persons for this unique and demanding ministry who are called and gifted by God to become Board Certified Chaplains or Certified Clinical Chaplains, who then will serve as professionally competent and compassionate spiritual caregivers in a healthcare facility.
The 1,600 hours (4 units) of the HCMA CPE Curriculum is designed to develop a professionally qualified healthcare Chaplain who has demonstrated professional competency in conducting a biblically based pastoral/spiritual care ministry to patients and/or residents, their families, and medical staff.
1. To orient the Trainee to the healthcare system as s/he functions as a professional pastoral/spiritual caregiver in a healthcare facility.
2. To help the Trainee become effective in assessing and meeting the spiritual and emotional needs of patients/residents, family, and staff.
3. To help the Trainee develop communication skills in the area of interpersonal relationships.
4. To support the Trainee in his/her spiritual disciplines and growth.
5. To prepare the Trainee to competently and compassionately respond to the varied crises faced by patients/residents, families and staff.
6. To help the Trainee become a team member working in cooperation with the healthcare staff, religious community, and the HCMA.
7. To assist the Trainee in understanding and responding to medical ethical issues.
8. To help the Trainee become a model of professional competence and high ethical standards as a pastoral/spiritual caregiver.
9. To keep the Trainee informed of his/her progress in the program by periodic evaluation and peer review sessions. 2 5/6/2021
10. To assist the Trainee in finding ministry partners to help support his/her ministry.
The entire HCMA CPE Curriculum consists of six “notebooks” (each unit is available online through the HCMA website) to which the Chaplain-Trainee may add his/her written assignments and notes.
This online basic introduction to chaplaincy covers the biblical foundation for pastoral care, the spiritual formation of the Chaplain, hospital visitation dos and don’ts, active listening skills, the Chaplain’s role and identity, terminal issues, grief issues, and how to handle basic emergency situations. The successful completion of Unit One, plus compliance with additional qualifications, may qualify a person to receive a certificate as a Chaplain Assistant with HCMA.
This unit looks at the professional and personal life of a healthcare Chaplain, spiritual assessment and charting, cross cultural ministry, ministry to staff, being a team player, ministry to surgical patients, general biblical principles on suffering and healing, and an overview of spiritual warfare.
Subjects covered in the third unit are the history of chaplaincy and HCMA, healthcare policies and procedures, crisis counseling guidelines, medical ethics, family dynamics, responding to objections, funerals, and prayer in world religions.
In this final unit, the focus will be on mental health ministry, social issues related to healthcare, ministry to the elderly, oncology ministry, professional boundaries, avoiding compassion fatigue, and establishing the Chaplain’s office.
There's more to the process of training you will be guided through.
"He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds."
- Psalm 147:3