Challenging. Intense. Life changing. These are the terms that have been used to describe the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Program, a joint initiative between the Schwartz Center and the Chaplaincy Department at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

First developed in 1998, CPE is an intensive, five-month fellowship that teaches clinicians how to assess and meet the existential, spiritual and religious needs of patients and their families. Participants learn how to engage and support patients as they grapple with questions such as:

  • What is the meaning of my life?
  • Has God abandoned me?
  • Why is this happening to me?
  • What do I want to accomplish in the time I have left?
  • What do I believe in and hope for?

The CPE program hones clinicians’ communication skills, while giving them the tools to minister to patients’ spiritual as well as medical needs. Meeting weekly, fellows learn through didactic presentations, clinical and “experience of faith” seminars and individual supervision. The program takes place at Massachusetts General Hospital and is offered twice a year.

Fellows come from diverse faith traditions and areas of healthcare. Participants have included an Episcopalian nurse anesthetist, a Buddhist social worker, a Roman Catholic nurse practitioner and a Jewish neonatologist. Fellows say the program has transformed them in countless ways, ranging from deepening their connections with patients to renewing their passion for their jobs to enriching their own spiritual lives.

For more information about the CPE program, please call the Chaplaincy Department at Massachusetts General Hospital at (617) 726-2220 or visit Mass General’s CPE website.