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Clinical Pastoral Education

  • Here at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, we are accredited to offer ACPE Certified CPE  The Standard for Spiritual Care and Education. This accreditation provides the highest quality education for spiritual care professionals. We are accredited to offer Level 1 and Level 2 Clinical Pastoral Education. Our Residents work out of St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, WA, and Franciscan Hospice and Palliative Care.


    The Clinical Pastoral Education program at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health – St. Joseph Medical Center is accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc. (ACPE), 1 Concourse Pkwy, Suite 800. Atlanta, GA 30328.  (404) 320-1472 Website:  Email [email protected]

  • In the midst of facing the challenges that arise with illness, patients and their loved ones often experience vulnerabilities that touch on various aspects of their lives. Illness and injury can disrupt one’s sense of meaning, purpose, hope and peace. Expressing and exploring what is weighing on one’s heart and mind with a chaplain resident who is carefully listening can help relieve the spiritual distress.  

    Spiritual care is about listening to stories and helping people discover and use their spiritual strengths and religious resources to navigate their circumstances. We believe spiritual care is essential to the care of people who come to our hospital with a wide range of needs. We value whole person care – mind, body, and spirit. The definition we use as a foundation for our work is: “Spirituality is a dynamic and intrinsic aspect of humanity through which persons seek ultimate meaning, purpose, and transcendence, and experience relationship to self, family, others, community, society, nature, and the significant or sacred. Spirituality is expressed through beliefs, values, traditions, and practices." Puchalski, C. M., Vitillo, R., Hull, S. K., & Reller, N. (2014)

    Professional spiritual care upholds an ethic of respecting the faith, beliefs, and values of those we serve. While interactions with diverse populations can create tension for some students, it is our belief that good spiritual care can allow for each chaplain to maintain their own convictions while compassionately caring for others.

    The intention of our program is to help chaplain residents learn the art and discipline of spiritual care in order to serve our patients and their loved ones thoughtfully, compassionately and with integrity.

  • Our program is founded on an educational context that is rooted in an action/reflection/action model of education. The practice of self-reflection is  encouraged throughout our program. Understanding the self that we bring to our ministry and the hope of learning to stay in one’s own shoes when we are connecting with another is at the core of the formation of spiritual care practitioners.

    Over the course of our residency a broad range of themes relevant to spiritual care are addressed using a variety of learning experiences that invite the practice of self reflection. The curriculum is designed to prepare people to become board certified chaplains. Some of the themes covered in didactics are:

    • Spiritual assessment
    • Theological/spiritual reflection
    • Family systems theory
    • Listening
    • Storytelling
    • Attachment/loss/grief
    • End of life
    • Addiction
    • Ethics
    • Diversity

    The Open Group component offers an opportunity to practice being relationally present through demonstration of pastoral skills that include giving and receiving support and feedback, affirming and/or challenging one’s perspective, and making the invisible visible. Additionally, residents receive individual supervision weekly which is a time for one-on-one reflection between the student and Certified Educator. Writing, sharing and reflecting are a significant element to this program.

    Clinical Work

    A key component of our program is clinical work. Each chaplain resident is assigned to specific clinical services for a period of time. The clinical assignments are rotated in order to give students a range of experience. In addition to the specific clinical assignments, chaplain residents experience responding to emergent needs in the hospital. Students are regarded as important members of both the chaplaincy interdisciplinary health care teams. The primary learning tool for clinical work is writing and presenting verbatim of clinical encounters for further reflection in the learning community that develops over time with peers in the program. In the process of presenting verbatim, students gain insights and understanding of their own functioning as well as viewing complicated life situations from different viewpoints. These insights can then be applied to future care.

    Our Intention

    Our intention is for our chaplain residents to participate in a breadth and depth of the professional chaplaincy. Our goal is to develop competent practitioners prepared for employment in health care or other types of caring ministry with awareness and competence.

    We welcome and encourage people from diverse spiritual paths and backgrounds.


    Each CPE program across the nation has the same standards yet with uniqueness to the institutions they reside in.  

    Our Residency program is full time (40 hours/week). We offer Level l and Level ll CPE based on the Outcomes defined by the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education. For further information on CPE, please go to  

    Other aspects about our program:

    • We uphold a relational and supportive learning environment
    • We uphold an ethic to care for all people, regardless of spirituality or personally held conviction
    • We support opportunities to contribute as part of the larger spiritual care department  
    • We do not require overnight on-call 
    • We do not charge tuition 
    • We offer a competitive salary of approximately $39,000 per year with benefits

    Successful applicants

    • Completion or progress towards the completion of graduate level education in Theology or Spirituality or its equivalent is preferred
    • Completion of a minimum of one unit of ACPE Certified Clinical Pastoral Education preferred
    • One year of successful ministry experience is preferred
    • Successful completion of employment guidelines are required, including up to date vaccinations and background checks

    Interested applicants can email Vera Markovich or call 253-426-4631 for additional information.

  • We use the standard application that is available on the ACPE website. Please email the completed form to [email protected]. There is a $25 application fee that you can forward to: 

    Spiritual Care Services
    1717 South J Street, MS 05-15, 
    Tacoma, WA 98405  

    Please make it payable to St. Joseph Medical Center. Typically, applications are reviewed beginning in the fall for the following residency year which begins mid-August.

  • markovichvera

    Rev. Vera Markovich



    Rev. Greg Nealon

  • My units of CPE at St. Joseph’s Medical Center challenged me deeply and simultaneously developed my confidence. I faced situations that felt risky, but not without teachers behind me who offered me their trust, their emotional support, and conceptual frameworks that helped me grow. My sense of my own capacities changed over time. I learned that showing up, being emotionally present, and listening were far more important than having the ‘right’ thing to say or do. And I had fellow students to accompany me on the journey whose insights and experiences enriched my own. I would not trade CPE at St. Joe’s and the preparation it offered me professionally–scared as I was on the first day–for anything in the world.


    Not only did CPE help me prepare for chaplaincy, it also helped me gain a better understanding of myself and how my life experiences influence and inform my interactions with others. The process of CPE asks participants to reflect on patient interactions from a deeper, more spiritual level. This process is not easy and often brings up thoughts, feelings, and emotions that have been neglected or buried. With the guidance of my supervisor through individual supervision, along with support from my peer group, I gained greater insight into my deeper self as well as my faith and how these aspects of my life inform my ministry, and my everyday life. When I began CPE, I thought I would be given instructions on how to minister to others. However, what I gained was much greater. Without CPE and the guidance of my supervisor, I would not be emotionally or spiritually equipped to minister to others. The benefits I have received are invaluable.


    I feel grateful for the experience offered during my residency year. The curriculum thoroughly addressed pertinent issues related to providing spiritual care in health-care settings. The multi-modal presentation of information was always engaging. Interacting with respect and empathy was modeled and encouraged in group meetings. During individual supervisions, I was provided with insightful and challenging feedback. The action/reflection/action model enabled me to explore my pastoral identity and improve my communication skills within the safety of the relationships I built with my supervisor and peers. Over the course of the year, one major shift for me was from a judgmental stance about others’ behaviors to a place of genuine curiosity about others’ lives.            


    Through 4 units of CPE classroom instruction and clinical encounters with patients, families, and staff; I have learned that we all have a life story that we want to share when we are hurting spiritually. Spiritual Care is about listening to a hurting person’s story and using it to help the person understand how to lessen their spiritual pain and increase their hope. I have also learned that we can leverage our own experiences and spiritual pains to comfort others with theirs. As I have done this during the CPE experience, a passion and empathy for others has developed within me that I did not realize that I could have. I have experienced a joy and fulfillment in the chaplaincy that I never attained during my secular career.


    Completing my yearlong CPE residency at St. Joseph Medical Center not only allowed me to gain expertise providing chaplaincy care, the program included personalized learning from my ACPE Educator who not only taught us in a group setting but took great care to impart knowledge to each of us in our weekly individual meetings. That bonus was that she cared enough to learn from each of us. The evidence of her learning makes the program better each year. The residency gave me an edge, a greater level of confidence in my chaplaincy skills, making it rewarding work within any health care system.