Clinical Pastoral Education Program Details

Distinguishing Features

Four features make Rush University College of Health Sciences an ideal location for Clinical Pastoral Education.

First, Rush offers students the opportunity to minister to people facing major life changes due to critical and/or chronic illness. Persons who are confronted with these events are often in need of comfort and support. They often seek help exploring and evaluating how they are coping with these realities and what they mean in the context of their life and spirituality.

Second, the medical center is an environment committed to education in the health care field. Rush has a long-standing allegiance to the teacher-practitioner model. The medical center believes that the best teachers are those who are clinicians and the best clinicians are also teachers. Although the specific balance of these two activities varies for each individual staff member, it is expected that the two will be found together. This philosophy prevails at the administrative level of the institution, where most administrators are also faculty in their respective schools, and also within the Department of Religion, Health and Human Values.

Third, the Clinical Pastoral Education, or CPE, Certified Educators at Rush have a variety of backgrounds and learning interests. Each was certified in a different decade and, thus, brings history, experience and new ideas to the table of supervision. They each share a deep commitment to Rush and the CPE program.

Fourth, through the Department of Religion, Health and Human Values and Rush University itself, both of which share the same campus, CPE students have access to educational facilities and a vast collection of materials. In the department itself, there is a library of publications, both books and periodicals. In addition, each CPE Certified Educator (CE) in the department maintains and updates his/her own library of spiritual care and theological materials, which are available to the students. Finally, the University’s library, while geared primarily to the needs of students in clinical and health management fields, also makes available many resources that can assist CPE students in their spiritual and spiritual care pursuit.


Level I and Level II Curriculum
As a CPE Center, Rush University Medical Center designs its curriculum to facilitate the achievement of the ACPE learning objectives related to Pastoral Formation, Pastoral Competence and Pastoral Reflection. The Outcomes for Levels I and II form the guiding principles. That said, the CPE faculty commits itself to seeing these objectives and outcomes through the following lenses:
  • The moment for learning is every moment. Learning to see and to reflect on self and other in the moment is key to good pastoring. In other words, curriculum is everywhere.
  • Relationship is everywhere and the joys and tests of relationship occur as a student encounters a crowded refrigerator as well as at the death of a 16 year old girl and her stillborn infant son. Faculty and staff experience the mutuality of learning with and from our students.
  • Stories are revelatory. As adult learners each student comes with a history, a more or less developed sense of self-direction and an already developed interpretation of the self. Telling the story anew can lead to an “aha” moment.
  • No matter what one’s goals or learning style, persons learn best when they are seen, mirrored, attended to. Hospitality and generosity are important attitudes to experience and cultivate.
  • Curiosity is a gift for which to be grateful, and an educational stance to cultivate. It is different than voyeurism.
  • The sacred, the holy, surrounds us. Every encounter holds potential for surprise, holds the possibility of enlarging our vision of the holy. Be prepared to stand in awe at birth, recovery, death. Be prepared to trip and fall and to rise up and soar.
  • Seek balance. It keeps one rolling, upright. But don’t be afraid of weaving.
  • Growth happens in spurts. Steady wins the race. Both are true.
The Objectives of Levels I & II are divided into three areas of competency: Pastoral Formation, Pastoral Competence and Pastoral Reflection. The CPE Faculty at Rush developed a curriculum that focuses on:
  • developing self-awareness
  • using the behavioral sciences to increase an understanding of and ability to work with others,
  • learning ways to apply  theology/spiritual philosophy in practical settings
  • using the clinical method of learning and the resources available to evaluate their work
  • integrating the personal and professional self
The foundation of CPE at Rush is learning in relationship. Learning in relationship is both the spiritual care context and the educational curriculum. In a very real way, life during an internship or residency opens every encounter to reflection and becomes a potential source of learning. The CE faculty firmly believe this and also believe that we are called to direct that learning to help the students meet the objectives and outcomes of Levels I & II. What follows is the curriculum that we have created to enable students to achieve the Outcomes.
The objectives related to competencies are primarily met through the use of the traditional CPE methodologies of verbatim, theological/spiritual reflection, interpersonal or group process, didactics and individual supervision. A section of the verbatim form may call for an analysis of self in the spiritual care visit, team meeting, or ritual leadership, etc. An aspect of story theology calls the students into reflection on the perceived needs of the narrator of the story and how best to minister to such a person. Students are encouraged to attend to underlying assumptions, attitudes and values in every kind of situation that they encounter. Within the goal writing process students are called to attend to their particular strengths and limitations in spiritual care. Mid-unit and final evaluations call for direct statements to each peer particularly regarding perceived strengths and limitations.
At Rush, completing the Level 1 outcomes typically requires 1-2 units of CPE. Completing the outcomes for Level 2 CPE typically requires 2-3 units of CPE. Most Rush CPE residents complete Level 2 Outcomes in their year of residency.
In Competency Area I, students will become aware of self as minister, including attitudes, values, assumptions, strengths and limitations, and the ways in which that ministry affects persons.
Material taught in Competency Area I will enable students to articulate central themes of one’ religious heritage, theological/spiritual understanding, major life events and relationships that inform understanding of self as pastor and which impact pastoral functioning.
Curriculum Addressing Pastoral Formation:
  • CPE Application and Interview
  • Retreat/Story Day
  • Learning Contract/Goals
  • Weekly Reflections
  • Introduction to Family Systems/Genogram
  • Introduction to Self-Psychology
  • Grief History
  • Suffering
  • Enneagram
  • Writing a Pastoral Theology
Anton Boisen emphasized learning to read the “living human document”. While competency area one focuses on learning self-awareness, knowing how one is formed and forming, competency area two shifts the focus outward to the other as the document to be read. Again, the primary methods for engaging this competency area are the traditional approaches to reflection used in the CPE process.
Curriculum Addressing Pastoral Competence:
  • Curriculum Addressing Pastoral Competence:
  • Spiritual Assessment and Spiritual Struggle
  • Orientation to Spiritual Care Visiting
  • Participation in support groups, rounds, discharge planning meetings, charting
  • Memorial Service Preaching
  • Introduction to Ethics and the Ethical Consultation Service
  • Presenting Ethics Case Studies
  • “J” term Introduction to Spiritual Care Research
  • Schwartz Rounds
  • Verbatim, Story Theology, Individual Supervision
  • Didactics on topics such as Grief & Loss, Motivational Interviewing, Cultural Humility, Behavioral Sciences, Rape Advocacy, etc.
  • Selected Readings
  • Learning to use the clinical method as an approach to learning is the central learning of the Pastoral Reflection Competency. The clinical method of learning can be difficult. From very young on up, students are taught to expect correction and begin to find ways to defend against it. The clinical method is often described as the action-reflection-action model. The student visits a patient and has a conversation. The student reflects on the patient that she/he met. She/he writes a chart note. She might write up a verbatim and bring it to individual supervision to talk about or she might seek consultation from a more experienced Chaplain. He might choose to present it in seminar to elicit reflections about his assessment, or about the way in which he offered spiritual care, or about a plan for future care of the patient and her family. Through conversation about the visit the student understands something in a new way so that in future visits with other patients the student Chaplain will have additional perspectives from which to act during a visit. Learning to integrate the didactic material into the practice of ministry is another aspect of pastoral reflection. Eventually the student will find him/herself engaging in self-supervision even in the midst of a visit … correcting course midway through a conversation. The student will learn to set goals and priorities for continual education.
  • Curriculum Addressing Pastoral Reflection:
  • Introduction to Spiritual Care Visitation
  • Introduction to Religious Traditions and Roman Catholic Ministry
  • Learning Contract
  • Patient Visits/Verbatim
  • On-Call rotations
  • Advance Directives
Admissions Contact
Phone: (312) 942-5571


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Learn more about the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program at an on-campus or online information session.