Accreditation Commission Responds to Center's Needs during COVID-19 Outbreak

By Pam Lazor, Chair, Accreditation Commission  |  March 23, 2020 

Considering the current situation with COVID-19, many centers are limiting in-person exposure and visits, which create challenges for students seeking to complete their clinical hour requirement for their unit of CPE.  However, opportunities for centers and our students to provide spiritual care for patients and their families can look different than the traditional model of in-person visits. 

Spiritual Care provided via Tele/Video Conference

The Accreditation Commission offers this guidance for centers and educators who can establish telephonic or video conferencing opportunities for their students to provide spiritual care, if this is permitted by the center’s sponsoring institution (if applicable).

Internal to Your CPE Center/Hospital/Institution
Students may provide spiritual care to patients through telephonic or video conferencing means.  Use of these technologies may be prudent when in-person visits are not allowed.  Utilization of these modalities may be used without additional oversight by the Accreditation Commission and do not require any additional documentation.

For the following two possible situations, please note the following: Centers should obtain the necessary permissions from their sponsoring institutions (if applicable), such as approval from administrator/s, legal and risk management; at all times the health and safety of students needs to be prioritized, as well as the recommended behavior during this pandemic emergency, such as social distancing and staying away from those who are sick/exposed to the virus, which may be more challenging in the below situations, and/or shelter-on-place orders.  Thus telephone/video conferencing visits are recommended, or mandated pursuant to local/state orders, over in-person visits.

Students Who Also Work in a Congregational Setting
CPE programs may wish to allow students who are part of a congregational setting to temporarily shift their clinical hours there in order to meet the requirement.  A Clinical Placement Agreement is needed for this setting, however, the requirement that the agreement be in place prior to the start of the unit may be waived temporarily due to the national emergency situation we find ourselves in, provided that the agreement is completed as soon as possible.

Students Who Do Not Work in a Congregational or Communal Setting
CPE programs may seek to establish relationships with local houses of worship or community based organizations so that CPE students can complete clinical hours in partnership with them by supporting the work of the congregation or organization in reaching out to their members, clients, and those who might be in need of spiritual care. Similar to those who already work in a congregational setting, a Clinical Placement Agreement is needed for this setting, however, the requirement that the agreement be in place prior to the start of the unit may be waived, provided that the agreement is completed as soon as possible.

Policy for Extending End Dates of a Unit of CPE

The current situation of COVID-19 impacting CPE units may require flexibility from the ACPE Certified Educator.  The Accreditation Commission reminds everyone of the following which are part of standard practice: 

Extending the End Date of a Unit of CPE
The establishment of the end date of a unit is at the discretion of the center and the educator. When necessary, the educator may extend the end date of the unit to enable the group to meet the required number of hours for the unit of CPE.

To extend the end date of a unit for the whole group, the educator will input a new end date upon their registration of the unit in the ACPE database.  No external approval to do this is needed, however this extension should be documented in the center’s accreditation portfolio.

Extending the End Date of a Unit of CPE for an Individual Student
While the integration of educational and clinical hours is a hallmark of a unit of CPE, there are situations that may arise where an individual student needs additional time to complete the requirements of the unit.

In this situation, the ACPE Certified Educator may make individual arrangements with the student to complete the unit requirements within the 21-day period in which educators must register units and complete the final evaluation process. This extension should be documented in the center’s accreditation portfolio.

Redefining a Half-Unit of CPE

Special Accommodations through December 31, 2020

To better support ACPE Accredited Centers, ACPE Certified Educators, and students, the Accreditation Commission is implementing a temporary change to the definition of a half unit of CPE.  This change is currently applicable to all units that are in progress and new units that will conclude before December 31, 2020.

A half-unit of CPE is comprised of 200 hours.  Successful completion of 200 hours (including center requirements) is registered as .5 credit of CPE in the ACPE database.

A half-unit includes a minimum of 50 hours of structured group and individual education and a minimum of 125 hours of supervised clinical practice in spiritual care.  While individual centers must meet these minimum hour requirements, they may utilize the remaining 25 hours as best supports their program.  The syllabus for the unit should provide a breakdown of the hours for each component.

Any questions about this temporary change should be addressed to your assigned commissioner.
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