History of Clinical Pastoral Education at Sentara

In January 1982, Chaplaincy Services was established with the hiring of the hospital’s first chaplain, the Rev. Thomas Mainor, and a full-time secretary. In subsequent years, Chaplaincy Services grew as the department assumed responsibility for Decedent Affairs for Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and responsibility for pastoral care services to Sentara Leigh Hospital and Sentara Bayside Hospital (now Sentara Independence).

For a number of years persons within the Chaplaincy Services Department, Sentara Healthcare and the larger community held the dream of establishing a program of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. As a major teaching hospital, Sentara Norfolk General was long viewed as an optimal setting for such a program of pastoral education for community clergy, seminarians, and qualified lay persons. Since its establishment in January 1982, the Chaplaincy Services Department has developed a strong staff of Clinical Chaplains that can serve as mentors and instructors to students in the CPE program. During the early part of 2000, through a convergence of a number of factors the time seemed right to pursue the development of a program of Clinical Pastoral Education at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

In the spring of 2000, a process was initiated to hire a Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor certified by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) and develop an ACPE-accredited program of Clinical Pastoral Education in pursuit of the following goals:

  • To enhance the quality of pastoral care services provided to the patients, families, physicians, and staff at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.
  • To maximize the number of hours of pastoral care services and after-hours coverage through a cost-neutral Medicare reimbursement mechanism.
  • To provide quality clinical training opportunities for community clergy who will be providing pastoral services to their congregants both in our hospital and in the community.
  • To build positive relationships with community clergy through development of a cadre of alumni of the CPE program and through the provision of continuing education programs for community clergy.
  • To heighten the awareness of hospital staff, physicians, residents, and others in more effectively responding to the emotional and spiritual needs of their patients in providing holistic care.
  • To enhance the connection between Sentara and the community through the involvement of clergy, physicians, and representatives of religious congregations and community agencies in a CPE Professional Advisory Group.

As a result of its search, Russell H. Davis, Ph.D. became the founding director and the school's first Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor. He began his duties in April 2001, and by May of that same year had assembled an outstanding Professional Advisory Group who helped guide the formation of the School.

In September 2001, the School of Clinical Pastoral Education signed a contract with the Department of Patient Counseling, Virginia Commonwealth University in order to function as a Satellite Center of VCU. This agreement with VCU was made possible through the cooperation and support of Dr. Alexander Tartaglia, ACPE Supervisor and director of the department at that time. The School secured the approval of the chairperson of the Mid-Atlantic Region Accreditation Committee, David Johnson, to become a satellite center.

The School launched its first CPE program on Oct. 1, 2001 with an extended unit and five students. In 2003, the School received approval to begin a CPE Residency Program with stipends for four residents. The Residency Program began Sept. 1, 2004.

In November 2005, representatives of the Accreditation Committee of the Mid-Atlantic Region of the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education conducted an accreditation site visit. In May 2006, the School was fully accredited to offer CPE Levels 1 & 2 by the ACPE. The School received three commendations -- for the quality of its (1) Curriculum, (2) Student Handbook, and (3) Self-Study.

The creation of a program of Clinical Pastoral Education for Sentara Healthcare fulfilled a long-standing vision. Many persons both within the hospital and in the community have contributed to that dream over the years. The school continues our mission to provide quality spiritual care to patients, families, and staff through quality pastoral education to community clergy, seminarians, and others.

In June 2012, Russell left this position to become Chair of the School of Counseling at VCU. In August 2012, Uwe C. Scharf, PhD and certified CPE Supervisor was hired as his successor. Prior to joining Sentara, Dr. Scharf served as Director of Pastoral Care, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, 2006-2011 and Associate Director of Pastoral Services at Duke University Medical Center, 2000-2005.

With the class of 2012-2013, the CPE Residency Program expanded to provide four full-time residents at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and one full time resident at Sentara Leigh Hospital.

In 2016, the Sentara School of Clinical Pastoral Education went through a 10 Year Accreditation Site Review with ACPE and was granted reaccreditation. Since November 2016, the program has been in transition with the departure of Uwe C. Scharf, PhD. Currently, the center is contracted with Susan Cross, D.Min., ACPE Supervisor.

In February 2017, in a meeting with Professional Advisory Group, the Sentara School of Clinical Pastoral Education moved to restructure the residency program into a 3 unit year beginning in August 2017.