Keeping Creativity Flowing, Keeping Growing Edges Growing
By  Mary Martha Thiel, ACPE Certified Educator |   October 2017

Hebrew SeniorLife (HSL), one of ACPE’s centers in Boston, is doing two new things in 2018.  Well, more than two.  But two we are ready to share with you!  

One is hosting a fulltime CPE Resident to focus on Spiritual Care of LGBT Elders.  Nonagenarian gay men and lesbians in this country are disproportionately nonreligious and very often survivors of multiple kinds of abuse and trauma.  The CPE Resident will engage one CPE unit focusing on Spiritual Care of the Nonreligious, one specifically on Spiritual Care of LGBT Elders, and one on Person-Centered Trauma-Informed Spiritual Care of Trauma Survivors.  In addition, the student will take part in HSL’s ongoing system-wide initiative with staff, residents, families, and patients to make HSL an LGBT-affirming environment.  This three-unit CPE program is graciously funded by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.  

We have run CPE units on Spiritual Care of LGBT Elders for the past two years at HSL.  I will be writing an article about these experiences and sharing the curriculum with colleagues in the coming months, and hope to present a workshop at our upcoming national meeting in Decatur, just as I did with my work on Spiritual Care of the Nonreligious several years ago.

The second new thing we are doing in 2018 is adapting “On Being a Spiritual Generalist” workshops to our setting in geriatrics.  These one-day workshops have been wildly successful at Boston Children’s Hospital in pediatrics, helping clinicians learn about, and assume, their appropriate role as spiritual care generalists, while appreciating the specialist role of chaplains.  Realistic enactments use actors and workshop participants to bring the learning to life.  Slides of photographs taken on our eight campuses will help give clinicians new eyes to see signs of secular spirituality all around them, not simply religiosity which is often more apparent.  Clinicians will learn the FICA spiritual screening tool and basic ethics of spiritual caregiving.  These workshops are a fruitful way for ACPE Certified Educators to help their colleagues with the biggest block to integrating spirituality into healthcare: lack of training of clinicians in the necessary skills.  Perhaps no one is better suited for this task than we are!  Our Spiritual Generalist workshops at HSL are being funded by the Josiah Macy, Jr., Foundation, through a gift to Brandeis University with Wendy Cadge as Principal Investigator.  Wendy Cadge is one of the leaders of the national initiative Transforming Chaplaincy.

As a small CPE center, HSL could not do these creative things alone!  By collaborating with colleagues within and across institutions, and by seeking foundation support for cutting edge projects, we are able to keep our growing edges growing, and to share what we are discovering with ACPE and the wider chaplaincy community.

I wonder what your curricular creativity has to offer to the meeting of spiritual needs in the ever-changing contexts in which we serve….

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