Capt. Bradford Smith (left), commanding officer of Naval Medical Center San Diego, and Lt. Benjamin Box, NMCSD clinical chaplain, speak at the clinical pastoral education residency program 2019 graduation ceremony at center’s chapel. U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Zach Kreitze

Eight Navy chaplains have graduated from a year-long program at Naval Medical Center San Diego meant to prepare ministers to provide spiritual support and counseling in hospital settings.

Ceremonies were held Friday for the Class of 2019 clinical pastoral educational residency program.

The graduate course consisting of four quarters of theory and applied practice in pastoral care. Their commitment is to serve for three years after completing the program.

Four chaplains are headed to VA clinics around the country, and four active duty Navy chaplains are heading to deployable units, Naval hospitals and bases.

Capt. Bradford Smith, commanding officer of NMCSD, spoke to the graduates about their hard work and the importance of their roles.

“The chaplains are critical to what we do and critical to the spiritual health of all who serve, integrating the physical needs with social needs and also spiritual needs,” Smith said. “If we are going to have a medically ready force, they have to have all of those needs met, and what you have been studying and what you are going to be able to deliver is exactly that.”

During the program the residents spent three days a week in a ward interacting with patients and providing spiritual support. The other two days of the work week were spent in reflection groups in order to get feedback amongst colleagues to improve the care they provided.

The program is designed to prepare ministers to provide service members and their families resources in times of need, and to give spiritual support and counseling.

“I think one of the best things of this program is it really forms you to be as present as you can be with people,” said graduate Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Wilkinson. “The fleet, hospitals and everywhere we go, this helps us to care for people in the most meaningful way.”

In the four-quarter school year, all residents were required to complete more than 400 hours of structured group instruction, and more than 1,200 hours of clinical practice in the wards of NMCSD and other hospitals in the Southern California area.

They also were required to present their clinical works, conduct a quarterly self-evaluation, and complete a final evidence-based project.

Formed in 1984, with the first class graduating in 1985, the Hampton Roads Clinic Pastoral Education Center united the efforts of the Navy Chaplain Corps and the National Veterans Affairs Chaplain Center to provide certified CPE for selected Navy chaplains.

The program is accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education.

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