From the Desk of the Executive Director
By Trace Haythorn, Executive Director/CEO  |  September 16, 2019

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Michael Hertz, an ACPE Certified Educator serving in Perth, Australia. Michael and his colleagues are developing a remarkably innovative and culturally integrated clinical pastoral education program to serve the people of Western Australia. Last year, the Centre for Well Being at Royal Perth Hospital (where the CPE program is housed) received a commendation from Australia’s version of the Joint Commission. This year, their program was encouraged to submit their work again because of how excited the larger healthcare community is about their initiatives.

Their work includes as reflection group based on the CPE model for physicians, another for nurses, and another for allied health and administrative workers. The CEO believes this program is so vital to the care provided by the hospital that every team now has a “well-being officer.” While the staff may not fully understand the nature of CPE, they recognize the benefits of the action reflection model for professionals throughout the hospital.

In addition, Michael is working to more fully integrate aboriginal students into the program, recognizing important cultural distinctions in an appreciative manner that enhances the experiences of all students. For example, there is not a concept of the “individual” among the first peoples of Australia; identity is always collective. Thus, even interviews of students from aboriginal traditions are done in groups rather than one on one.

This summer, Ted Hodge, chair-elect of ACPE’s International Relations Committee (IRC), will lead a unit as a part of Michael’s team. Like our standards, the Australia New Zealand Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ANZACPE) requires 400 hours for a unit (though their hours are divided differently), up from 300 hours a few years ago. This change has led our partners in Ireland and Canada to explore full reciprocity with Australia, something I expect Ted may bring to the IRC after his unit.

While many of the CPE educators in Australia were originally trained in the US, the work taking place in Western Australia gives testimony to the ways that CPE can be developed in culturally appropriate ways. For example, religious affiliation and participation in Australia is much lower than in the US. One educator even described the relationship to organized religion as often hostile in Australia, a move that is much more difficult to engage than the “spiritual but not religious” growth we see in the US. Thus, Michael and his colleagues learned that using terms such as “wellbeing” allowed for exploring spiritual issues in a way that fit within the larger culture. Such cultural sensitivity paired with the cultural humility demonstrated by the work with aboriginal students makes it clear that ANZACPE is not just a partner to our work in the US but also a resource.

With so many international opportunities opening up (even amidst the increasing visa challenges we face in bringing international students to the US), I expect the IRC will have to be very strategic in where we invest our time and energy in the coming years. It is very exciting and gives testimony to the richness of CPE. Never doubt the importance of this work, nor its potential to transform communities, nations, even the world.

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