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A Review of Transforming Chaplaincy's Research Literary Courses

by Mark LaRocca-Pitts BCC PhD
and Nina Redl BCC

APC Forum, February 2021, Vol. 23 No. 2


I hope you like recommendations because I have one. If you have not done Research Literacy 101 (RL101) through Transforming Chaplaincy, you are missing a wonderful educational opportunity. Two years ago, I found myself in need of some CEs and especially some in research when I came across this course offering. I was unsure how much benefit I would receive from the course since I was already writing and publishing and thought I knew how to do research. I was wrong; I benefited tremendously from this course. There is a significant difference between stumbling across a helpful article and knowing how to find them intentionally when needed.

RL101 is a five-week course offered four times a year and is taught by professional chaplains well trained in research methodology. The general expectation is five hours of work a week, which I found quite doable. Most of the work is done online, including chat rooms with other students. The objectives or aims as set forth on their webpage are tailored to the needs of professional chaplains who need to be research-literate. They are the following:

  • to understand evidence-based spiritual care and its rationale
  • to provide an overview of spiritual care research,
  • to help see that all research is not equal and
  • to receive resources for research literacy

Another great thing about the course is that it is held asynchronous, meaning that you are free to log in anytime during the five weeks and do the work according to your schedule, except for the last meeting, which is a two-hour live session. I especially enjoyed this last live meeting as I got to interact face to face with the other students who I had only encountered virtually.

For me personally, what I found most helpful is that it helped me find a research topic that interested me. Then it taught me how to use online tools to find material relevant to my interest and then how to read and evaluate that material for relevance and quality.

What interests you? Is there something specific in our field as professional chaplains you would like to know more about? Would you like to establish or increase your competency in research literacy? Or, maybe you find yourself simply in need of more CEs. Whatever your motivation for taking this course, I strongly recommend it. I found it extremely valuable, and I am still reaping the benefits of this course two years later.

Of course, now I find myself considering whether I would like to take the follow-up course, RL102, from Transforming Chaplaincy. In order to help me and possibly others to consider it, I’ve invited Nina Redl, a member of APC’s Quality and Research in Chaplaincy Care and the liaison to Transforming Chaplaincy, to tell us about RL102.
RL102 is the continuation of RL101 and follows the same asynchronous online format described above. However, it is 10 weeks in length. Even though that may seem long, I can say that the weeks flew by thanks to fantastic teaching and invaluable interactions with my chaplain colleagues from across the globe. It gave me plenty of opportunities not just to deepen the knowledge from RL101 but to practically apply it.

The objectives are practical in nature and easy to achieve through excellent teaching and ongoing help from the presenters. They are:

  • to conduct meaningful literature searches and locate research articles in chaplaincy-related area(s) of interest
  • to understand and interpret written and tabulated results in research articles
  • to evaluate the strength of study design and understand limitations
  • to apply research findings to chaplaincy practice, chaplaincy program development, and communication with healthcare colleagues and leaders

Actively doing research or simply just reading complex research articles can seem daunting at first. Even just the beginning of the course that outlined where to find chaplaincy related research opened a new horizon for me. The course structure broke down complex topics such as a basic understanding of statistics and how to read and interpret them within qualitative and quantitative studies to an absolutely easy and doable workload.

I found myself actually having fun looking at numbers and statistics while working on the practical assignments each week. My eyes used to glaze over previously when a research study seemingly consisted of nothing but numbers, but now I know how to navigate and evaluate them.

The presenters succeeded in making research highly applicable to my everyday chaplain work. I started seeing my daily tasks from a research perspective and learned how many of my core tasks and conversations with different medical providers or patients could potentially be the beginning of a fascinating journey into research. In the end, this was the most satisfying outcome for me, seeing how research is not theoretically dry but as vibrant as my practical work on the medical units. Leaving the class, I gained the confidence to participate or initiate some research on my own, with my department, or even with my interdisciplinary team. I strongly feel I have acquired a whole new research-based language that incorporates me even more deeply into my hospital environment. It has been an invaluable experience.

If you want to be able to easily pick up any research article and not be lost in it and feel confident even evaluating it – this course is for you! Never sweat again about your 5 hours of research CE’s for your yearly BCC recertification ;) And, who knows, you might turn into the occasional researcher!

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