“If you can do pastoral care at Royal Perth, you can do it anywhere”, or so said one of our 2016 graduates. The RPH environment continues to stimulate and challenge our CPE students, where they encounter people suffering intensely through illness, injury, violence, addiction, isolation, homelessness, loss—indeed the full gamut of human experience. Our students also encounter fantastic acts of heroism, bravery, resilience and healing among the patients and their loved ones whom they serve, and the clinicians and support staff alongside whom they provide compassionate and effective care. Having completed my second year of service at RPH, I consider it an honour and privilege to serve within this venerable institution, to accompany our students through their CPE journeys, and to celebrate with many of our graduates as they begin careers as spiritual care professionals.
Like every other program at RPH, CPE has had to become leaner, more efficient, and more focused on long-term sustainability. We no longer have an administrative assistant; the unexpected blessing in this is that CPE has become more integrated into the operations of the hospital system. It is gratifying count as partners staff from a variety of departments and services. Another result has been the automation of our administrative functions, for example on-line application and pre-enrolment processes. Our applicants seem to be quite satisfied with the clarity and user-friendliness of these processes.
As anticipated in my report last year, CPE has been tasked with creating additional revenue streams, deepening our collaboration with education programs within and beyond the hospital, and offering our services to a wider audience. Our new reporting relationship within “Consumer Engagement” has heightened our program’s visibility, and has opened the door for us to initiate new venues of spiritual care for staff, including an annual staff event we call “Blessing of the Work of Your Hands”, the creation of a quiet meditative space in the new staff lounge, and the provision of wellbeing programs for medical interns.
The CPE adjunct faculty team now includes approximately twenty experts in a variety of clinical, spiritual, and human service fields from throughout the hospital and WA; these professionals are providing excellent theoretical material which the students apply in their clinical practice, as well as the beginning of a professional network for our graduates. After a very successful trial of a “Bush CPE” experience, we have incorporated a multi-day camping experience into most of our programs, during which students face a variety of problem solving and team building opportunities, present their midterm evaluations, and deepen their bonds as a community of practice. One student said it well: “We left as four individuals; we returned as a group.” Another reflected, “In sleeping on the ground I faced my worst fears. When I returned to the hospital I wasn’t so scared of the patients and staff.”
I am grateful for the people whose hard work and partnership makes CPE what it is at RPH: Todd Gogol (Director, Consumer Engagement), Rich Read (Coordinator, Pastoral Care), Helen Vester (Acting Level 1 Supervisor), and Tim, Geraldine, Pep, Ken, Francis, Arnel, and all the other RPH Chaplains, and John Barendrecht and other leaders within the Uniting Church who make my employment here in Australia possible. The challenges, support, freedom, and creativity I experience in my role as CPE Centre Director at RPH has been a gift which I do not take for granted. I look forward to many years of service and ministry in this role.
Michael Hertz, Centre Director