Before I completed my last unit of CPE several years ago I was encouraged to go for my certification through the APC. It’s the “gold standard”, the “union card”, the key to get you in the door of any Chaplain job in the country.
Only I didn’t go for it.
I have plenty of excuses now looking back. I already had a job that didn’t require certification and they didn’t really care if I was. I was the Director of Spiritual Services already and none of the chaplains I supervised had their certification either, so I didn’t feel that pressure. As Director, I was also really really busy and didn’t feel like investing any more time then toward putting all the papers together and so on. I also felt really secure in my position and didn’t feel like certification would really help me where I was. Plus, I also got the feeling that although my job had supported me through part of my CPE, they were done with giving me time and financial support to pursue certification.
Then I got let go.
It took me several months to find a new position, and I honestly wasn’t sure if was going to find one locally. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure if I still wanted to be a Chaplain. The fact that so few jobs were available, not only locally but regionally, made me really consider where I was going in terms of my career. I interviewed at a couple hospices locally as well as with some hospital positions, but either they didn’t pan out or I found that I didn’t want to work for them. I’m thankful and blessed to be not only doing chaplaincy again but with an agency that is not only doing the right thing but doing a good job at it, and I didn’t have to relocate my family to do so.
Having gone through all that, I’m now reconsidering certification. But I’m finding that it’s a tougher row to hoe today than it would have been a couple years ago.
One of the main issues with board certification through APC for me is my documentation timeline. They require two verbatims, one no older than 24 months and the other within the last 12 months. Given that all of my CPE work was done more than two years ago that means I have to write two more verbatims. I have one in the hopper already but haven’t had the time to actually sit down and write it out. Given that the windows of opportunity for certification reviews through APC tend to close quickly, it’s hard to make deadlines. So what I thought I could do this year is probably going to take at least another to get done.
The other big stumbling block for me has been time. The minute you step out of CPE, you feel as if you have all this time back. And then the waves come and fill in that vacancy to overflowing with work, kids, activities, church, and so on. Pretty soon, as the song goes, you find out “no one told you when to run / you missed the starting gun.” This I think is the biggest hurdle anyone faces who is looking at certification, especially when you look at the sheer volume of work and time that goes in to just preparing for board review.
So my advice for anyone in the middle of CPE, finishing CPE, or contemplating board certification is to just write it in to your plan to do it and hit the bricks. If you wait for “the right time” it will never come. If you take a break, chances are your trajectory will head you off in a direction that will make it ever more difficult to get back on track.
I’m also looking at the Certified Thanatologist program through ADEC and/or CPSP’s Board Certified Chaplain/Pastoral Counselor program. These all have their pro’s and con’s as well. I’m actually considering multiple certifications, as the work going in to one will in some cases be applicable toward the others. But these all also have their hoops and associated fees.
Anyhow, in short, get certified now and don’t wait! I’ll write more about the process as it goes on.