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Winter 2011 Newsletter

On-Line Newsletter Volume 9, Number 2
Published February 26, 2011

Edited by Chaplain John Ehman, Network Convener

Network members are encouraged to submit articles for upcoming issues.
The Newsletter is published three times a year: Fall, Winter, and Spring-Summer.
(The Spring-Summer 2011 issue will be published in June.)

This issue of the Newsletter is also available as a printable PDF.


Table of Contents

  1. Update on the ACPE Board Motion on Research
  2. Research into Chaplains' Documentation: A Call for Stories and Formats
  3. Supervisory Training Process Survey
  4. Research-Related Activity at the ACPE Center at Virginia Commonwealth University
  5. Connections Through Research
  6. Ideal Intervention Project Update
  7. Michael S. Barry's The Forgiveness Project
  8. Initiative on Spiritual Care in Palliative Care in Europe
  9. Spirituality & Health Summer Workshops at Duke
  10. Annual Meeting of the Network: Salt Lake City, April 8, 2011


1.     Update on the ACPE Board Initiative on Research

In 2010, the ACPE Board of Representatives approved a motion for the Executive Director to "work with interested ACPE supervisors and centers and other research experts to design a research initiative for the ACPE." As part of a general consultation on how to respond to the Board's motion and how to engage our membership at large in the initiative, Dr. Teresa Snorton invited suggestions for projects through the Research Network and via the ACPE e-News, saying: "We need to invest in research, not just in terms of supporting individual projects but in growing organization-wide interest and involvement." A list of proposals by ACPE members was submitted to Dr. Snorton in the fall of 2010, and that information has now been referred to the Strategic Planning Work Group that will report to the Board in 2011. A standing link to the Research Network has been added to the ACPE e-News as one means to further the initiative. A basic question remains: What are the areas in which the ACPE -- its membership -- most needs to make knowledge claims that empirical research may be suited to provide? To offer your thoughts, you may contact the Research Network's convener at A number of Supervisors and Clinical Members are well established as researchers, and many of our centers have active research programs. The current initiative aims to build upon such good work to promote research as an organizational venture.


2.     Research into Chaplains' Documentation: A Call for Stories and Formats, by Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi, PhD

I was a research historian of science for more than twenty years specializing in the sociology and intellectual history of new scientific knowledges and practices (--see I am now making the transition to becoming a hospital chaplain. This is my year in between: I have finished up old research projects and am waiting to enter divinity school in the Fall. I am currently the 2011 David B. Larson Fellow in Health and Spirituality at the Kluge Center at the Library of Congress.

I am writing to the ACPE Research Network and to all readers of this newsletter to invite you to get in touch with me if you have information that might be helpful to the topic of chaplains' medical record documentation, both paper and electronic.

The overall research topic is the maturation and professionalization of healthcare chaplaincy. The first thread I am following is how chaplains have achieved the right/privilege to enter notes into a patient's medical records as fully part of a clinical interdisciplinary team. Not only will I be looking at the various meanings and consequences of this, I will also be looking backwards at the invention of various spiritual screening/assessment/diagnostic tools, and forward into the various forms and formats devised by chaplains -- or devised by others for chaplains -- for charting and documentation of visits and care plans.

I am specifically looking for stories and documents having to do with chaplains documenting their patient visits in the medical record. I know that there have been all sorts of formats and coding experiments over the past two decades, but very little of it has been published in the chaplaincy/pastoral care literature.

If you have a story or a format or a document to share with me, please get in touch. My email address is:

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours truly,
Dr. Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi
David B. Larson Fellow in Health and Spirituality
Kluge Center, Library of Congress

[Editor's Note: The David B. Larson Fellowship in Health and Spirituality, named in honor of one of the pioneers of modern spirituality & health research, supports a scholar for 6-12 months at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, to explore the relation of religiousness and spirituality to physical, mental, and social health.]


3.     Supervisory Training Process Survey

The Rev. Amy Greene, Director of CPE at the Cleveland Clinic and a DMin candidate at Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit, will be conducting a survey in the coming months via Survey Monkey. This will go to the email addresses of all ACPE Supervisors (employed and retired) listed in the ACPE supervisor directory. The survey focuses on the supervisory training process and includes a forced-choice ranking system for the most effective components of the participants' own supervisory certification process. Her goal is to gather insights into best practices for formation of ACPE supervisors for the 21st century.

For further information about the project, you may contact Rev. Greene at or at her Cleveland Clinic office at 216-445-0001.


4.     Research-Related Activity at the ACPE Center at Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU's School of Allied Health Professions (SAHP) PhD Program in Health Related Sciences is accepting applications for its July 2011 student cohort. The SAHP PhD Program seeks to meet the need for doctoral-trained allied health professionals in areas of teaching, research, and administration. This multidisciplinary research-focused program is designed as a four year program featuring an extensive distance education component. The program includes students from each of the school’s nine departments, including Patient Counseling, which currently has two students in the dissertation stage. For additional information see or contact Dr. Diane Dodd-McCue at

Chaplain residents Sheryl Johnson, Tom David Siebert, and Darrel Baker are involved in a quality improvement project as a major assignment in the VCU Masters Program in Patient Counseling. Pastoral care effectiveness is complemented by chaplains’ knowledge and understanding of the unique context of units to which they are assigned. Chaplain residents are surveying hospital units to identify key dimensions of the organizational culture of units. They plan to report their results at a graduate research symposium later this spring.

"When Caring Hurts...A Response of an Institution: A Pilot Study Supporting Compassion Fatigued Pediatric Critical Care Nurses at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center," appeared in Chaplaincy Today [vol. 26, no. 2 (Autumn-Winter 2010)]. The authors were Patient Counseling faculty Dr. Ann Charlescraft, Dr. Alexander Tartaglia, and Dr. Diane Dodd-McCue, along with Dr. Sandy Barker, VCU Professor of Psychiatry. The article provides an overview and evaluation of an intervention conducted by Dr. Charlescraft with pediatric ICU nurses.

Patient Counseling faculty also contributed to a presentation at the 2010 Society for Psychological Study of Social Issues' 8th Biennial Conference. "The Impact of Hurricane Katrina on CRNAs" examines the toll on providers staffing New Orleans' hospitals as well as the effect on subsequent educational performance. The authors include LSU faculty Dr. Marjorie Geisz-Everson and Dr. M. Bennett and VCU faculty Dr. Diane Dodd-McCue, Patient Counseling, and VCU Nurse Anesthesia faculty Dr. Chuck Biddle and Dr. William Hartland.

CPE sites are sought for replication of a video-based hospital orientation program used with CPE students. The orientation program is described in "Enhancing Student Engagement and Critical Thinking During Hospital Orientation for Level 1 CPE Students" (Tartaglia, et al.), which appeared in Chaplaincy Today [vol. 25, no. 1 (Spring-Summer 2009)]. Please contact Dr. Alexander Tartaglia ( for details.

More information is available on the VCU Program in Patient Counseling website:


5.     Connections Through Research, by Steve Overall, Saint Luke's Hospital, Kansas City, MO (

When in 2000 the CPE program at Saint Luke's Hospital added to the residency curriculum a research component, identified as the "Advanced Ministry Specialty Project," we began working with Lucy Hood, RN, PhD, Professor of Nursing at Saint Luke's College of Health Sciences. Under Dr. Hood's direction, residents are taught to distinguish various types of research objectives and offered one-to-one "coaching sessions" to help them understand methodological issues and select meaningful projects to explore the ways to help advance mind/body/spirit health and wellbeing. Our students have always given her high praise for her dedication and commitment to their research efforts, and I -- as Director of the CPE Program -- have observed the impact of her instruction and mentoring, with much appreciation. This past year we celebrated ten years of our association with Dr. Hood by presenting her with a plaque naming her "Research Coach Extraordinaire." The event received front-page coverage in the College of Health Sciences' alumni news. Connection with such extraordinary people who might otherwise not be involved with our program is a great benefits of the research process.

Particular student projects have also opened new opportunities for our department's participation in the life of the hospital. After a resident developed a project on burnout among nurses, the Director of Nursing took note of the potential of chaplains to bring to organizational initiatives insights that were not only born of patient care experience but of research-mindedness. Our department is now being considered to become part of the hospital's Nursing Research Council, with the possibility of having one of our CPE Supervisors and/or CPE Residents serve on this council in the near future. Incorporating research into our program has certainly required some effort, but through it we have increased our voice and activity in our hospital as well as our network of resources.


6.     Ideal Intervention Project Update

Dr. John Gleason has now collected 117 Ideal Intervention Paper reports in a Knowledge Base of Samples, which is a prototype for a collection of spiritual care experiences that can be the focus of research and can inform the process of establishing standards for pastoral care interventions. Supervisors and students are encouraged to visit the IIP section page on our website and to participate by incorporating the project into the verbatim component of CPE curricula and submitting IIP reports for inclusion into the knowledge base. Dr. Gleason is currently surveying supervisors about their experience with the project, and he will be making a presentation, "Sharing Spiritual Care Knowledge for the Good of All," at the Association of Professional Chaplains' annual conference in Dallas (March 26, 2011) and at the National Association of Catholic Chaplains' annual conference in Milwaukee (May 22, 2011). He has previously spoken at ACPE conferences (national and regional), to the Spiritual Care Collaborative Summit, and to the Society for Spirituality, Theology, and Health at Duke University. For more information, you may contact Dr. Gleason at


7.     Michael S. Barry's The Forgiveness Project

Chaplain Michael S. Barry, Director of Pastoral Care at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (at Eastern Regional Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA) has long followed the health care literature related to forgiveness and has now published The Forgiveness Project: The Discovery of How to Overcome Cancer, Find Health, and Achieve Peace (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, Publications, 2011; paper, 201pp.). He brings a strong research-mindedness to his chaplaincy experience and to this exposition of how "forgiveness is good medicine" [back cover]. In spite of the strident tone of his subtitle, Barry writes with appropriate caution about any attempt to simplify the relationship between forgiveness/unforgiveness and health, especially for any given person, and he is particularly concerned about how sequential step-programs tend to oversimplify the process by which forgiveness might benefit the sick. He holds to a broad premise that pursuing forgiveness in one's life can bring about a sense of personal peace to counteract emotional responses like anger and hatred that science suggests have negative health effects.

I've reached this conclusion: The stress of unforgiveness negatively affects the immune system. Forgiveness, on the other hand has an immediate, wholesome effect and long-term benefit in strengthening the immune system and positively affecting the healing process." [p. 14]
The author writes from the perspective of is own intellectual and professional journey through the subject, and a significant portion of the text is devoted to patients' stories and other anecdotes illustrating the connection between forgiveness and healing. However, he emphasizes research in three ways: by references passim to researchers' studies and expert opinions, by brief introductions to a number of scientific terms and topics (like the relation of stress responses to the endocrine system), and by reporting on the beginnings of original research in the context of the program at Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Regarding the latter [--see pp. 108-111], Barry's own research has been predicated on the idea that cancer patients "often suppress negative emotions" and the fact that they "frequently speak of issues related to interpersonal forgiveness with…chaplains," so "[t]herefore, forgiveness interventions would especially benefit cancer patients" [p. 110]. While his investigation is currently at a very early stage, his initial inquiry has found:
  • Sixty-one percent of our cancer patients suffer from unforgiveness.
  • Thirty-four percent of our patients suffer from high to severe forgiveness-related issues.
  • A high percentage of our patients are unwilling to openly admit in an initial evaluation that they struggle with forgiveness issues.

Overall, the book has much more of a pastoral and theological tone than a scientific one, and it's clearly written for a popular, lay audience; and while the author states that he has written with sensitivity to the fact that readers may not share his Christian beliefs, this reader felt that non-Christians may feel marginalized by the religious language used in many places. Nevertheless, for chaplains interested in the topic of forgiveness, there is good food for thought here -- about pastoral practice and the potential for further research -- that may complement other academic material (e.g., see our May 2010 and October 2007 Articles-of-the-Month pages). For more on Chaplain Barry's work, see his website:


8.     Initiative on Spiritual Care in Palliative Care in Europe

The European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) has organized a task force on spiritual care and has identified research as one of its major objectives. The task force works from a very broad definition of spirituality as: "the dynamic dimension of human life that relates to the way persons (individual and community) experience, express and/or seek meaning, purpose and transcendence, and the way they connect to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, to the significant and/or the sacred." *

The research objectives of the Spiritual Care in Palliative Care (SCPC) task force are:

  • To translate guidelines, standards and educational programs on SCPC in English;
  • To promote a research workshop at EAPC congress, on methodology
  • To make an inventory on existing research on SCPC in EU [European Union]
  • To build a European network of researchers in SCPC and interest universities in SC [spiritual care] topics identified by the [task force]
  • To promote research as a part of the "normal" work of the chaplain
  • To collect SCPC narratives of different EU backgrounds to be available for teaching and research on the EAPC-SCPC website
  • To identify research questions
  • To reframe research questions to include SC (from bio-psycho-social frame to bio-psycho-social-spiritual frame)
Outcomes are to be presented at the 2013 EAPC Conference in Prague, Czech Republic.

One of the members of the task force is the Rev. Dr. Steve Nolan, whose research on chaplains fostering hope in dying patients is featured for our February 2011 Article of the Month.

* NOTE: This definition is a variation on one crafted at the February 2009 Consensus Conference in Pasadena, California. See: Puchalski, C., et al., "Improving the Quality of Spiritual Care as a Dimension of Palliative Care: the Report of the Consensus Conference," Journal of Palliative Medicine 12, no. 10 (October 2009): 885-904.


9.     Spirituality & Health Summer Workshops at Duke

For the eighth year, the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health ( at Duke University will be presenting workshops on spirituality & health research, July 18-22 and August 15-19, 2011. These intensive, five-day courses, hosted by Dr. Harold Koenig, cover material from postdoctoral fellowship curricula and include individual mentorship by faculty. Enrollments are limited to 25 students. Participants usually include a mix of professional researchers and people who simply want to understand more about the field of religion/spirituality& health. Over 500 people have now completed these workshops, and chaplains are regular attendees. For more information, go to


10.     Annual Meeting of the Network: Salt Lake City, April 8, 2011

Our annual meeting will begin at 5:45 PM at the Sheraton Salt Lake City Hotel, on April 8th, as part of the national ACPE conference. Members should send particular agenda items to In addition to general Network business, we'll be discussing the ACPE Board initiative on research, the plan to post students' papers on our website, and developments with the Ideal Intervention Project.



If you have suggestions about the form and/or content of the site, e-mail Chaplain John Ehman (Network Convener) at .
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The ACPE Research Network. All rights reserved.