Well, I have two weeks of CPE under my belt now. Orientation is finished, and things are settling into a rhythm. I've even done my first 24-hour on call. I've gotten to know my fellow interns and the residents (who have been at the hospital since last August), as well as Ted, the director, and Ken, the manager, of the Pastoral Care and Education department. So what is a day in the life of a CPE student like?
We begin each day at 8:00 (or 0800, since hospitals also use military time) with morning report. The chaplain who was on call the night before tells the rest of the chaplains about any traumas/pages, and makes referrals if necessary. Then the chaplain who is beginning his or her on call shift does a short prayer or devotion, and the group breaks up.
On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings, we have class. The classes take a variety of forms—some are lecture-like, in others one intern presents a verbatim of a visit he or she made in the hospital, and others are open-agenda group discussions. We have two class sessions each of these mornings, with a break in the middle to go to interdisciplinary rounds.
The rest of the time is basically free for us to use. A large portion of this time is spent visiting patients or families. We also have time for reading and writing. In my case, the Behavioral Health service line has a very structured schedule—they eat meals together at set times and have scheduled group activities—so I can do very few visits in the morning. I spend the morning doing other work and make most of my visits in the afternoon. We also have one-on-one sessions with our CPE instructor, Ken, about once a week.
Our on call requirements work out to about one on call a week. It goes from 0800 (8 am) to 0800 the next day, though someone else will hold the pager in the morning if the on call chaplain has class. When on call, the chaplain's main responsibility is to report to every trauma or class one medical, and to do triage with the other chaplains.
That's CPE in a nut shell, at least for York Hospital (every CPE site seems to work a little differently). It's a lot of work, and it's challenging in many respects. It's also a powerful and unique learning experience. I will try to post again soon.