HCMA Professional Chaplaincy Competency Standards


HCMA is committed to a high standard of professional conduct for its members. In certifying chaplains for healthcare ministry, demonstration of professional chaplain competency standards as well as ethical conduct is of primary concern. The Professional Chaplain Competency Standards and the Code of Ethics have been established by HCMA for measuring pastoral care skills and ethical behavior. HCMA members are held accountable for these standards of professional and ethical conduct.

These Professional Chaplain Competency Standards and Code of Ethics are motivated by a commitment to excellence in the pastoral / spiritual care provided by its members and a concern for the well-being of the clients they serve. Professional and ethical standards are vital to public respect for and trust in the ministry of professional chaplains. Each professional and ethical standard is designed to guide HCMA and its members in recognizing norms for professional and ethical conduct and for calling people to accountability when these norms are violated. If there is any allegation of an HCMA member being in violation of any of these standards, HCMA will look into all of the stories and concerns involved. If there is found to be a need for discipline, the goal will be on restoration of the offender to an appropriate life and ministry.

Before a person can be certified as a professional HCMA Board Certified Chaplain (BCC) or Certified Clinical Chaplain (CCC), the person must meet certain qualifications. For example, an HCMA BCC must have a seminary degree, ordination, ecclesiastical endorsement, completed four units of clinical pastoral education, a 1,600-hour internship, and measure up to the Professional Chaplain Competency Standards through a written and oral peer review. (See Qualifying for Board Certified Chaplain and Qualifying for Clinical Chaplain under the heading Certification.)

As mentioned above, one of the professional qualifications is demonstrating professional chaplain competency in four key areas. These four key areas of competency are: 1) Personal Identity and Conduct, 2) Theology of Pastoral Care, 3) Pastoral / Spiritual Care, and 4) Professional Competencies.

This document is one of two foundational documents (the other being the HCMA Code of Ethics) that describe what it means for a professional Chaplain to function as a competent and ethical pastoral caregiver in the healthcare setting.

The Professional Chaplain Competency Standards

An HCMA Board Certified Chaplain (BCC) and Certified Clinical Chaplain (CCC) gives evidence of the personal, theological, pastoral / spiritual care, and professional competencies necessary to provide effective spiritual care in the healthcare setting.

I. Personal Identity and Conduct Competencies

The Personal Identity and Conduct Competencies of a BCC or CCC with HCMA are evidenced by the professional Chaplain’s ability to:

  1. Demonstrate self-knowledge that permits pastoral / spiritual care to be offered within the context of one’s strengths and limitations.
  2. Be a self-reflective person who is well grounded in a relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, self and others.
  3. Demonstrate emotional and spiritual maturity resulting in compassionate ministry that is respectful of other people, including their physical, emotional and spiritual boundaries.
  4. Build peer relationships for the purpose of support, confrontation and clarification.
  5. Articulate ways in which one’s feelings, attitudes, values and assumptions affect one’s pastoral / spiritual care.
  6. Attend to one’s own physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
  7. Use pastoral/spiritual authority appropriately.
  8. Function according to the HCMA Code of Ethics, showing personal integrity in all areas of one’s life.
  9. Reflect professional behavior, including appropriate attire and personal hygiene.

II. Theology of Pastoral / Spiritual Care Competencies

The Theology of Pastoral / Spiritual Care Competencies of a BCC or CCC with HCMA are evidenced by the professional Chaplain’s ability to:

  1. Articulate and implement a pastoral/spiritual theology that is integrated with practical pastoral / spiritual care.
  2. Reflect theologically and to facilitate that spiritual formation process in others.
  3. Understand current theological / spiritual / religious beliefs, issues and practices among various religious groups as they affect pastoral / spiritual care.
  4. Articulate a working knowledge of bio-ethical issues as they relate to pastoral / spiritual care.

III. Pastoral / Spiritual Care Competencies

The Pastoral / Spiritual Care Competencies of a BCC or CCC with HCMA are evidenced by the professional Chaplain’s ability to:

  1. Initiate, deepen and terminate pastoral relationships with sensitivity, openness and respect.
  2. Provide effective pastoral / spiritual support that contributes to the well-being of patients or residents, their family and staff.
  3. Communicate effectively with others through active listening and empathic responding.
  4. Use spiritual assessment, planning, intervention and evaluation in order to contribute to the plan of care.
  5. Offer pastoral / spiritual care that is respectful of diversity and differences, including age, culture, diagnosis, disability, economic status, ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation, social status and religious beliefs and practices.
  6. Provide effective pastoral / spiritual care to those suffering grief and loss.
  7. Understand ways in which psycho-social-spiritual dynamics and cultural / ethnic differences affect pastoral / spiritual care practices.
  8. Triage and manage crisis situations in the practice of pastoral/spiritual care.
  9. Develop, coordinate and facilitate public worship and spiritual practices appropriate to diverse settings and needs.
  10. Support others in the application of their own values in decision-making.
  11. Advocate for the persons in one’s care.
IV. Professional Competencies

The Professional Competencies of a BCC or CCC with HCMA are evidenced by the professional Chaplain’s ability to:

  1. Promote the integration of pastoral / spiritual care services into the systems of the healthcare institution.
  2. Communicate effectively orally and in writing.
  3. Establish and maintain professional and interdisciplinary relationships, giving evidence of understanding professional accountability within the operational systems in the clinical setting.
  4. Articulate an understanding of institutional culture and systems, and systemic relationships.
  5. Support, promote and encourage ethical decision-making and care.
  6. Communicate effectively with other disciplines through the use of referral systems, chart entries (documentation of pastoral / spiritual care) and other mechanisms in the clinical setting.
  7. Utilize pastoral / spiritual perspective and competence in a variety of functions, such as worship, teaching, administration and team building.
  8. Foster collaborative relationships with community clergy and faith group leaders.
  9. Articulate ways in which one has used supervision, consultation and peer group process to evaluate personal and professional growth in ministry.