Professional Certification Process

For most people, the process for becoming a Board Certified Chaplain (BCC) develops as follows:

  • They complete a Master’s Degree from a school of theology (seminary).
  • They are then ordained (or commissioned) by their particular faith group.
  • At some point in this process, they have a “calling” to a pastoral care ministry in the healthcare setting.
  • They then go through 4 units (1,600 hours) of clinical pastoral education.
  • Following this intensive and extensive chaplaincy training, they complete an additional 1,600 hours of internship. During this time, they focus on the professional chaplain competency standards established by HCMA for a BCC.
  • In addition, they are endorsed by their particular faith group for their specialized ministry in a specialized setting (i.e., chaplaincy).
  • At the completion of the internship, they come before a peer review group to present written and oral verification for how they measure up to these professional chaplain competency standards as well as the Code of Ethics.
  • Upon completing all of the above, the candidate is recommended to the HCMA Board for certification. The Board has a final review to ensure that the candidate meets all of the qualifications before a certificate is issued.

Some may go through this process in a different order, or they may do some of the requirements at the same time (for example, doing clinical pastoral education while doing their theological education). Either way, every candidate for certification as a BCC must meet all of the qualifications. For the average person, this entire process can take at least two years or longer to complete.

Board Certified Chaplain (BCC)

Professional certification as an HCMA Board Certified Chaplain (BCC) 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.

An HCMA Board Certified Chaplain (BCC) is a person who has demonstrated professional excellence as a Trainee and Intern Chaplain and has completed all eligibility requirements (including four units of clinical pastoral education, 1,600-hour internship, ordination, ecclesiastical endorsement, etc.), has been peer reviewed by the Area Steering Committee for meeting the Professional Chaplain Competency Standards and the HCMA Code of Ethics, has been recommended by the Teaching Chaplain, and has been approved by the Board of Directors of HCMA.

Qualifying as a Board Certified Chaplain

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.

An HCMA Certified Clinical Chaplain (CCC) is a person who does not meet the qualifications for BCC (either ordination and/or theological education), but has completed 1,600 hours (4 Units) of clinical pastoral education, an 800-hour internship, has been peer reviewed by the Area Steering Committee for meeting the Professional Chaplain Competency Standards and Code of Ethics established by HCMA, has been recommended by the Teaching Chaplain, and has been approved by the Board of Directors of the HCMA.

Qualifying as a Clinical Chaplain

Certification Endorsement

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.”

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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.