Clinical method

Geisinger is a community of health care with a primary, major goal in quality care. The medical center is intentional about being a humanizing setting which honors emotional and spiritual needs of patients. Chaplain residents serve as spiritual team leaders, and students in all its programs become part of the health care team. Nowhere is Geisinger's ethos more evident than in the day-to-day operations in the Ronald McDonald House and the House of Care, both of which are located on campus, lodging both patients and family members during a period of critical treatment.

Chaplains are involved in the trauma center team on a 24-hour basis. Visits to pre-operative and newly admitted patients provide spiritual presence to persons from distant communities whose own clergy may not be immediately available. The on-duty chaplain is available to family members waiting to visit intensive care units. The Spiritual Care Department provides a service essential for Geisinger's caring atmosphere.

The Geisinger School of Spiritual Care (GSSC) uses the clinical method of learning by supervised hospital ministry to enhance students' pastoral competence and identity.

The clinical method of learning
The first objective of GSSC is to create and maintain a learning environment for clinical, pastoral learning including:

  • opportunity for consistent critique of each student's ministry function by a supervisor and peers
  • identification of the student's learning needs and goals to support a clear learning contract and a balanced process of evaluating learning and professional development
  • commitment to a trustworthy atmosphere of respect in which students may risk self-disclosure and critical evaluation

The second GSSC objective is to involve students in ministry practice with Geisinger patients, family members, and employees. The clinical method of learning requires ministry practice in which students discover their unique gifts, basic assumptions, and limitations. Patient care and clinical learning are mutually supportive.

Clinical learning and pastoral formation often occur when:

  • students encounter new spiritual tasks, including varieties of personalities and life situations
  • chaplains team with hospital personnel in attempting caring interventions
  • chaplains encounter hospital policies and procedures that inform new alternatives for ministry
  • chaplains experience urgent needs they cannot readily meet and for which they must seek consultation

The third GSSC objective is to provide pastoral learning in a clinical setting for theological students, lay persons with pastoral function, and ordained clergy. Pastoral learning requires integrating profound awareness of faith experience and theological understanding with insights from the behavioral sciences.

This integration occurs by:

  • examination of the student's faith experience, values, and belief systems
  • understanding the spirituality of persons who believe and function differently from oneself as a basis for ministry
  • pursuit of a conceptual frame for clinical practice

Residency in spiritual care
The core of Geisinger's educational design for ministry is its residency in spiritual care designed to promote comprehensive pastoral formation. The resident peer group becomes a forum which provides rich insight into the spiritual dimensions of human crisis. Each resident is given opportunity to carry out ministry in situations of urgent and intense spiritual and emotional need.

Summer CPE
Summer students are given major assignments to clinical services where consistent ministry has become the standard. The experience includes concentration in visitation and spiritual conversation to assigned “parish” areas and experience of on-duty coverage to the entire medical center.

Summer CPE students assume responsibility on the health care team. Patients, family members and hospital staff become the most significant teachers in the process of developing and expanding the scope of the student's spiritual skills, including:

  • issues related to the clinical setting
  • spiritual skill development
  • crucial self-awareness in pastoral formation
  • concepts about the pastor and the care of persons
  • the development of functional theology
  • issues related to the religious community and its particular faith groups

Extended CPE
Geisinger's Extended CPE program is designed for individuals who prefer a part-time continuing education format. Formal class hours are held one day each week over a 16 - 20 week period. Fall and/or spring sessions will be scheduled each year. Some area clergy persons have utilized this CPE program to complete the clinical requirements by the Association of Professional Chaplains.

The Pauline Haupt Scholarship Fund
Single unit CPE students may apply for limited financial aid towards their tuition from The Pauline Haupt Scholarship fund.

No smoking policy
Geisinger Health System does not accept applicants who use tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, and chewing or smokeless tobacco. Applicants will be screened for nicotine as part of the pre-education physical process. Nicotine will be part of the urine drug screen. Students who test positive for nicotine will have their offers into the CPE program rescinded.

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program information