August 27, 2020

VUMC establishes new residency training program for chaplains

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has established a new chaplain residency training program to provide quality education for developing chaplains and better support the spiritual needs of patients, their families and Medical Center employees.


by Jill Clendening

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has established a new chaplain residency training program to provide quality education for developing chaplains and better support the spiritual needs of patients, their families and Medical Center employees.

For more than 20 years, VUMC has been a part of a collaborative with area hospitals and Alive Hospice to train chaplain residents at its member sites, but the growth of the Medical Center over the past decade, as well as the high volume of critically ill patients cared for at VUMC, led to the decision to create the in-house program.

“In doing research, we discovered we were one of the few academic medical centers in the country without our own chaplain residency program,” said Terrell Smith, MSN, RN, director of Patient and Family Engagement. “VUMC is huge, and we’ve got so many clinical care sites that it just made sense at this time to develop a program with a curriculum tailored to our patient population and staff. Our leadership was immediately very supportive of this.”

In late July, the Medical Center received notice of pre-provisional accreditation for the one-year chaplain residency program from the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE), the national accrediting organization for clinical pastoral education (CPE) programs recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The program has received the green light to begin recruiting applicants, and full accreditation is a two-year process.

The goal is to have four chaplain residents begin training in September. Word has already spread about the program, and a broad field of initial applicants is anticipated, Smith said.

“I’m just so thrilled that we’re at this point, and that we’re going to be able to offer this training on a much broader base than what we have been,” said Andrew Peterson, CAVS, MDiv, MMHC, director of Spiritual and Pastoral Care and Volunteer Services. “Having four residents really will be such a huge help to the entire institution. Our initial plan is to establish the residency, and in the future add summer internships, as well as extended unit internships or what is called externs. We are excited about these future opportunities that will further strengthen our chaplaincy program at VUMC.”

VUMC currently has 10 chaplains who serve Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and Vanderbilt Behavioral Health. Each chaplain has an area of service expertise, and they will act as mentors for the chaplain residency students.

“We are a very strong academic medical center, and this has been an element that was missing from our programs,” said Janet Cross, MEd, administrative director of Patient- and Family-Centered Care at Children’s Hospital. “The addition of the chaplain residency will certainly help us provide a broader level of service. We have a great partner in Vanderbilt University School of Divinity, and they have a chaplain track that is one of their more popular programs. We know they will be a great resource for students, and we will also recruit students from all over the world for this program.”

The program is under the oversight of the Center for Programs in Allied Health and Donald Brady, MD, VUMC Senior Vice President for Educational Affairs and Senior Associate Dean for GME and Continuing Professional Development, with direct supervision by Smith in the Office of Patient and Family Engagement.

As part of the accreditation process, a professional advisory group was formed in early 2020, made up of current VUMC chaplains, representatives from the Vanderbilt University School of Divinity, VUMC physicians, medical ethicists, local faith leaders and members of the community.

Young-ki Eun, ACPE

Rev. Young-ki Eun, ACPE, formerly CPE director for Ochsner Health in New Orleans, has been selected to serve as the senior program manager of the chaplain residency program. Eun is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He graduated from the University of Toronto/Knox College with a Master of Divinity degree. He also completed postgraduate studies in theology, English, linguistics and psychoanalytic studies, as well as a four-year clinical training program in psychotherapy.

Eun completed his CPE residency at New York Presbyterian-Cornell Medical Center and his CPE supervisory training at the Health Care Chaplaincy, New York. His work as a CPE supervisor includes New York Presbyterian-Columbia University Medical Center, the Hospital of St. Raphael (now Yale New Haven Hospital-St Raphael Campus), Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center-Boston and New York Theological Seminary.

“We are thrilled to have Rev. Eun join us, and we look forward to his leadership in building this program,” said Smith. “He brings to our CPE program more than twenty years’ experience working as a CPE educator, chaplain, university faculty member and parish minister. He is quite accomplished, and we are excited for what his addition and the addition of the chaplain residents will mean for our patients and their families, as well as the Medical Center’s employees.”

“VUMC has a well-established, national reputation of excellence, and I look forward to my role in guiding chaplain residents in their professional development along with mutual respect and mutual empowerment,” said Eun. “The role of a chaplain in an academic medical center, particularly one with such broad service as VUMC, is an invaluable one, and I look forward to supporting the current chaplains who do such an outstanding job. I also look forward to growing relationships with both our medical teams and with the broader spiritual community in Nashville.”

Applicants for the chaplain residency program must have a theological degree at the master’s level from an accredited theological school or the equivalent. One prior unit of ACPE-accredited CPE and ordination or commission to function in ministry/pastoral care or progress toward ordination or commission are preferred.

For more information, contact Eun at