HCMA Clinical Pastoral Training Curriculum Overview


The purpose of the HCMA Clinical Pastoral Education Curriculum is to prepare qualified persons for this unique and demanding ministry who are called and gifted by God to become Board Certified Chaplains or Certified Clinical Chaplains, who then will serve as professionally competent and compassionate spiritual caregivers in a healthcare facility.


The 1,600 hours (4 units) of the HCMA CPE Curriculum is designed to develop a professionally qualified healthcare Chaplain who has demonstrated professional competency in conducting a biblically based pastoral/spiritual care ministry to patients and/or residents, their families, and medical staff.


  1. To orient the Trainee to the healthcare system as s/he functions as a professional pastoral/spiritual caregiver in a healthcare facility.
  2. To help the Trainee become effective in assessing and meeting the spiritual and emotional needs of patients/residents, family, and staff.
  3. To help the Trainee develop communication skills in the area of interpersonal relationships.
  4. To support the Trainee in his/her spiritual disciplines and growth.
  5. To prepare the Trainee to competently and compassionately respond to the varied crises faced by patients/residents, families and staff.
  6. To help the Trainee become a team member working in cooperation with the healthcare staff, religious community, and the HCMA.
  7. To assist the Trainee in understanding and responding to medical ethical issues.
  8. To help the Trainee become a model of professional competence and high ethical standards as a pastoral/spiritual caregiver.
  9. To keep the Trainee informed of his/her progress in the program by periodic evaluation and peer review sessions.
  10. To assist the Trainee in finding ministry partners to help support his/her ministry.


The entire HCMA CPE Curriculum consists of six “notebooks” (each unit is available online through the HCMA website) to which the Chaplain-Trainee may add his/her written assignments and notes.

  1. Unit One: This online basic introduction to chaplaincy covers the biblical foundation for pastoral care, the spiritual formation of the Chaplain, hospital visitation dos and don’ts, active listening skills, the Chaplain’s role and identity, terminal issues, grief issues, and how to handle basic emergency situations.

The successful completion of Unit One, plus compliance with additional qualifications, may qualify a person to receive a certificate as a Chaplain Assistant with HCMA.

  1. Unit Two: This unit looks at the professional and personal life of a healthcare Chaplain, spiritual assessment and charting, cross cultural ministry, ministry to staff, being a team player, ministry to surgical patients, general biblical principles on suffering and healing, and an overview of spiritual warfare.
  2. Unit Three: Subjects covered in the third unit are the history of chaplaincy and HCMA, healthcare policies and procedures, crisis counseling guidelines, medical ethics, family dynamics, responding to objections, funerals, and prayer in world religions.
  3. Unit Four: In this final unit, the focus will be on mental health ministry, social issues related to healthcare, ministry to the elderly, oncology ministry, professional boundaries, avoiding compassion fatigue, and establishing the Chaplain’s office.

After successfully completing these four Units, the candidate for certification with HCMA will complete a 1,600-hour Internship (for BCC) or 800-hour Internship (for CCC). The candidate for certification will then need to meet all pre-requisites (ordination, graduate-level seminary degree, ecclesiastical endorsement, etc.), have a peer review by the Area Steering Committee to determine achievement of Professional Chaplain Competency Standards and compliance with the HCMA Code of Ethics, and be recommended for Board approval as a BCC or CCC.

  1. Medical Terminology Manual: Each Chaplain-Trainee is provided with a Medical Terminology Manual (online) that contains an overview of the following subjects: medical terms and abbreviations, the skeletal, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, auditory, cardiovascular, urinary, nervous, visual, reproductive, muscular, and integumentary system. Familiarity with medical terminology will help Trainees be more comfortable in the healthcare setting. It will also assist them in better understanding what is going on around them. This medical knowledge is for the Trainee’s personal understanding. Familiarity with medical terms does not suggest a full or exact understanding of the medical situation a patient/resident is facing. This knowledge is never to be used by a Chaplain to give diagnostic or prognostic advice. That is the role of the physician, never the role of the Chaplain.


  1. HCMA Policy Manual: This notebook (online) contains the policies that govern all HCMA Chaplains. It includes the HCMA Code of Ethics, certification and recertification policy, chaplaincy continuing education standards, performance review policy, policies about qualifying as an HCMA Chaplain, and other HCMA policies that govern all HCMA Chaplains and Trainees.


Under the mentorship (supervision) of a Board Certified Teaching Chaplain (BCTC), the Trainee will undergo at least 1,600 hours of CPE in a number of areas related to pastoral/spiritual care in acute care hospitals (or other healthcare settings).

The course of study outlined in the HCMA CPE Curriculum will guide the Trainee in this pursuit of knowledge and experience in the day-to-day routines of healthcare chaplaincy. The Trainee will be expected to read widely in the field, to complete assignments that will involve a variety of methods, and to conduct a spiritual ministry in accordance with his/her sense of God’s calling. Training will also include exposure to tense, life-and-death situations that will test his/her ability to function adequately and professionally in times of crises.

Segments of the curriculum will focus on three areas of growth: personal, spiritual and professional. Hours spent in the healthcare facility interacting with patients/residents, family members and medical and administrative staff (from 200 to 300 clinical hours per Unit) will be complemented with hours spent completing reading and writing assignments as well as spending time with the Teaching Chaplain in reviewing assignments, debriefing about visits, discussing the Trainee’s progress, and sharing mutual concerns (at least 100 course work hours per Unit).

Evaluation and peer review of the Trainee is an ongoing part of the chaplaincy training program.


After examining the above information about the HCMA CPE program, it should be very evident that one Unit (400 hours) of CPE with HCMA is equivalent to any unit offered by the ACPE or CPSP or any other CPE program that is designed to help equip someone to provide competent chaplaincy care at the bedside.

HCMA does accept chaplaincy training that individuals have received from other CPE programs in lieu of its own CPE. For those interested in applying their CPE units for certification with HCMA, they will need to submit their evaluations from each unit of CPE for review before receiving equivalency.