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My Journey to Board Certification: Blessing, Challenge, and Conundrum

by Puanani Lalakea BCC
APC Forum, February 2019, Vol. 21 No.1
The journey to becoming a Board Certified Chaplain (BCC) with the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) is daunting. I admit that, initially, I was reluctant to follow the BCC route. I do not believe the letters after one’s name are necessarily an indication of competency or success. Thus, I questioned the need to jump through someone else’s labor intensive hoops in order to “prove” what I already knew; namely, that I am a chaplain.  In the end, however, I decided I would pursue board certification because, as a hospital chaplain, I work in a world where letters after one’s name are an important indication of the level of education and training one has received.  The BCC designation provides the outward validation that chaplains are trained professionals on a par with other healthcare professionals. 
The BCC application process is overwhelming. Therefore, I broke it down to manageable parts. I examined the competencies one at a time. This helped me to realize I was being given the gift of a template through which I could truly reflect on each aspect of my ministry. In doing so, I confirmed that I was already doing many of the things that competent chaplains do. Of course, this didn't mean that my practices couldn't benefit from a few tweaks here and there. I began with making subtle changes to my approach in order to enhance my pastoral care tool belt. Recognizing my abilities gave me the confidence I needed to delve into those areas where I didn’t feel quite yet competent. I found the competency guide invaluable in offering me specific ways that I could build my skills and become a more effective chaplain. Examining the competencies in this way also helped me to recognize and articulate my strengths and growing edges.
The process of exploring the ways to become a more competent chaplain--from seminary, to Clinical Pastoral Education, to becoming Board Certified--has provided me with additional opportunities to continue growing through ongoing reflection and collaboration. Meeting with my interview committee was my first chance to practice speaking specifically about the ministry that I love with professionals outside of my work environment; it was a delight to be able to gather in fellowship with others who share my passion for chaplaincy.  Beyond the benefits to my ministry, becoming Board Certified has also opened up opportunities for networking with chaplain colleagues both here in Hawai’i, and on the mainland. In turn, this has given me the distinct pleasure of being able to support the BCC journeys of other chaplains.
The Rev. Puanani Lalakea MDIV, BCC serves as Chaplain for Pacific Health Ministry at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children in Honolulu, HI. Rev. Lalakea can be contacted at