Hospital chaplains are required by many hospitals to have undergone a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) course prior to becoming a certified chaplain at the hospital. While a chaplaincy candidate is attending the 1,200- to 1,600-hour courses, he also participates in volunteer hands-on chaplaincy training and experiences under the supervision of senior staff hospital chaplains.
Hospital chaplains deal with patients experiencing physical crisis, which can involve emotional trauma and worry. The hospital chaplain receives training on how to listen to the patient's overall concerns, evaluate the severity of the concerns and then apply the appropriate spiritual beliefs to the situation. This can include prayer, scripture reading or acting as a liaison for the patient and the family between them and the hospital workers at the very beginning of a medical crisis. Hospital chaplains are trained to deal with grief and death issues.
As a hospital chaplain, the chaplain will work with patients of all faith beliefs, including those who do not subscribe to any faith belief. The chaplain must not pry into the patient's personal life or situations if it does not pertain to the concern the patient is expressing at the time. The hospital chaplain is trained to not enter into any conflict of interests with the patients, staff or families. This includes not using the patients and families for networking opportunities, sales opportunities or entering into romantic relationships.
Due to the environment in which the hospital chaplain ministers, the chaplain may learn of medical conditions, testing, assessments or diagnoses relating to the patient. The hospital chaplain is not allowed to repeat this confidential information without express permission. Training includes how to be discreet and to protect the privacy of the patients, families and staff.
Hospital chaplain training includes being schooled in the work flow procedures of the hospital in general, safety protocols and security issues. The hospital chaplain will be fully aware of visiting hours, legal consequences of breaking the hospital rules and the most efficient ways of working with the hospital staff while he or she is ministering to the patients.
Because hospital chaplains usually feel a strong call to minister to the sick and dying with the comforts found through spiritual beliefs, the hospital chaplain may feel an obligation to work many hours of overtime. Hospital chaplains experience a wide variety of crisis situations combined with joyous occasions such as the birth of a child. Through it all, it's only human to take on some of the emotional burdens of these things even when it's not intended to happen. Therefore, the chaplains are trained to look for signs of burnout in one another and take appropriate measures to avoid it. Talking about particularly stressful or sad situations, staying within the allotted work schedules and yielding to other chaplains that notice signs and symptoms of burnout are some ways to avoid it.