Clinical pastoral experience: From left, Zollfrank, Nelson, Ponder, Nguyen, Gettel and Johnson
So a priest, a rabbi, a Methodist, a Presbyterian and a Unitarian Universalist walk into a hospital ... While this may sound like the beginning of a joke, it's really how five individuals -- Lev Nelson, Ross Ponder, Elizabeth Nguyen, Rebecca Gettel and Jeffrey Johnson, SJ -- began the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) fellowship program June 1 at the MGH. Representing various faith traditions, each recently completed the 10-week program. To congratulate the graduates, a ceremony was held Aug. 13 in the MGH Chapel with nearly 50 guests attending.
The MGH Chaplaincy offers three CPE programs a year. Students learn how to provide compassionate care and spiritual support in a clinical setting and meet weekly to discuss how spiritual caregiving can support patient care.
"Each of us learned not only how to offer support to patients and their loved ones, but we also learned more about ourselves and each other," says Johnson.
Adds Rev. Angelika Zollfrank, MDiv, director of the CPE program, "Through the program, the students delved into their own weaknesses, vulnerabilities, fears, hopes and sufferings while immersing themselves in the lives of patients, families and staff in the hospital. Getting in touch with what makes each of us most human enabled them to meet patients with empathy and to serve their spiritual and religious needs. Hopefully, in more than 1,500 patient visits, we were able to help them be more connected to the spiritual resources they carry within."
Nelson says, "We are humbled by the work we did this summer. We're grateful that the MGH houses such a program and contributes to training clergy. The world needs hope. People need hope. Spirituality can be a source for binding people together, rather than dividing them. In a small way -- five or six students at a time -- the MGH is doing its part toward that goal."
To apply for the winter 2011 CPE Program or for more information, contact Zollfrank at 617-724-3227.