KALAMAZOO, Mich – As a teaching hospital, Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo is widely known for educating future doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other allied health professionals. But few may know that the hospital is also home to a highly regarded training program for religious leaders who want to learn how to provide spiritual care in a healthcare setting. Bronson’s Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program is an accredited program that trains individuals from all religious communities. It is one of only 263 such training programs in the United States.
The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc. (ACPE) recently completed a 10-year accreditation review of Bronson’s program. ACPE is the only organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to certify and accredit clinical pastoral education. Bronson’s CPE program was found to be in full compliance with national standards and was recognized for providing an exceptionally high quality curriculum.
Bronson first established its chaplaincy program and continuing education for local clergy in the 1950s. Students in the CPE program at Bronson gain healthcare experience through full time residencies; summer internships; extended units, where students work in other facilities; or supervisory education experience for students who want to teach Clinical Pastoral Education.
Over the years, the program has graduated more than 350 students, many of whom now serve in chaplaincy roles at area hospitals including Borgess Medical Center, Bronson Battle Creek and Spectrum Health. Others serve as leaders of churches, synagogues, hospices and other faith-based organizations where they utilize their clinical pastoral training in ministering to ill and injured members of their religious communities.
Walter Balk, pastoral care coordinator at Bronson, says, “Bronson is an organization that values diverse cultural and religious backgrounds and serves patients and families of all faiths. We believe it is not only important to minister directly to patients, their families, and to staff, but also to give the religious leaders in our community the training so that they can skillfully and empathetically provide spiritual care in a clinical setting.”
Bronson’s CPE program trains chaplains to be vital members of a multi-disciplinary care team. Chaplains play an important role in healing by helping patients draw on their spirituality. They work with the medical team to ensure spirituality is addressed in the holistic care of patients and families. Bronson is one of few hospitals to have chaplains in the hospital 24/7 where they:
• Respond to all traumas and life-threatening emergencies
• Support interdisciplinary teams, patients and visitors on every unit
• Provide walk-in pastoral counseling for employees
• Connect patients and families with their religious communities
• Provide memorial services, weddings, baptisms, funeral arrangements
• Offer assistance for meals, transportation, prescriptions and community health contacts
Chaplains also support hospital staff by helping them remain strong when patients and families can’t be, according to Carol Sue Borkholder, CPE graduate and lead chaplain at Bronson Battle Creek. "I support nurses as they cope with all the emotions involved in caring for patients and families. Healthcare is intense, but the program really helped me learn to self-reflect and seek help so that I can continue to focus on the patients and staff."
Individuals interested in learning more about the Clinical Pastoral Education program at Bronson should contact Bob Persenaire, clinical pastoral education coordinator, at 269/341-6171.
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