CPE Unit 4

I’ve been in the midst of my 4th unit of CPE since the second week in September. For this unit I stepped out on a bit of a limb. I left the hospital where I did 2 units last year (although I remain on staff as a per diem chaplain) and was accepted into a unit at a city hospital. This was a difficult choice. I left a place I knew and loved, a place where I had good relationships with staff, policies and procedures I knew like the back of my hand, patients whose names I often recognized when they came back for one more chemo treatment or the latest HIV complication. It was gut-wrenching to make the decision to do my last unit somewhere else.
In some ways there were financial considerations; the tuition at my new CPE location is cheaper, and they cover some commuting expenses. However, it was more about challenging myself in new ways. Could I get through a unit with a legendary “old school” supervisor, working in one of the most intense hospitals in the city? Could I add psychiatry and trauma ICU to my growing list of units where I have experience providing pastoral care? Could I work with an entire hospital of the poorest, most desperate patients in the city, most of whom would have no visitors but the chaplain? Could I finally learn to compartmentalize enough to have a life outside of the hospital? Could I survive a full time CPE, and therefore, full time work as a chaplain? Would switching hospitals help me with my struggles with discerning my vocation?
The answers to these questions are still in the process of being written. What I know right now is that we’re approaching the middle of the unit and I’m doing quite well. I’m learning new things, I’m enjoying having peers around all of the time, my supervisor is a bit gruff but brilliant, and I’m finally feeling like I have a bit of a clue about how this huge, teeming, chaotic city hospital operates. I’ve learned how to lead spirituality groups for psych patients, and I’ve done two shifts as a chaplain in an ER that constantly looks like there’s been a mass casualty incident. (I love the ER. It reminds me of the old days – 10 years ago – as a volunteer patient rep in a big trauma center in Philly.)
I do not know at this point where this leads. I do know that if I can handle this program and this hospital, I can probably chaplain anywhere. I also know that I miss parish life. I took a sort of haitus from parish ministry to do this unit – and now I miss the parish. Maybe that’s part of the discernment. Maybe I am supposed to be split in half somehow, like I was all last year – chaplain on some week days, parish priest on the weekends, with the hospital informing my preaching and liturgy healing the places I’m broken from witnessing so much suffering. Maybe, just maybe that’s how it will be going forward. We’ll see.


~ by Sophia on September 28, 2010.

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