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June 20, 2018
Volume 15 No. 6

Open Access

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Testing the Validity of Chaplain Certification

A testing process has validity only when it can be shown to measure what it claims to measure. One of the major facets of validity is face validity in which a group of recognized subject matter experts in the field endorses the validity of the measure.  In the development of the Spiritual Care Association’s testing process for certification, major efforts were made by HealthCare Chaplaincy Network to establish the face validity of the knowledge test and the scoring criteria for the simulated patient encounter.

  • The effort was begun by convening a international, multidisciplinary panel to establish the first evidence based Quality Indicators in health care spiritual care.  The 18 indicators the panel endorsed covered the structure, process, and outcomes currently supported by published evidence.  Competency in chaplaincy care which is what the testing claims to measure is defined as the chaplain having the knowledge and skills necessary to deliver care as defined by the 18 indicators.
  • A second international, multidisciplinary panel was then assembled to establish what chaplains need to know and be able to do to meet the 18 indicators and provide evidence-based quality care.  The panel endorsed a Scope of Practice statement that recognized a set of competencies, each of which maps to one or more of the Quality Indicators.
  • With the help of a testing professional, the competencies were reworded to learning objectives and divided into general content areas.  Subject matter experts from each are a wrote test questions for each learning objective. 
  • Objectives that were judged to need observation of clinical practice were added to the scoring sheet for a simulated patient encounter.
  • In order to cover the two poles of face validity:  “Do all the questions bear on what the test claims to measure?” and “Is there any reasonable facet of the content area that is not being tested?” another level was added.   A panel of experienced chaplaincy leaders was asked to rate each question on a five point scale from Slightly Important to Critical by using as a guide "How important is it for a new chaplain in my department to have this particular knowledge or skill?" The consensus of those polled and the feedback from chaplains who have taken the test to date is that all the questions bear on chaplaincy competence and no reasonable component of chaplaincy competence has been omitted.

Compiling and enhancing the validity and reliability data on any measure is an ongoing process that is never complete.  Given that both components of the SCA testing are numerically scorable, as is the chaplain's contribution to each of the Quality Indicators, testing for predictive validity is possible by answering the question, “What is the likelihood that chaplains who pass both the SCA tests will deliver high scores on the Quality Indicators?” It will then be possible to identify and replace test questions or scoring criteria that do not correlate well with high quality scores with test questions or scoring criterion that do.

The Spiritual Care Association has the only certification testing process that has this capacity. Other processes within the profession do not concretely describe competence so that the claim of the validity of the process can be measured and judged.



George F. Handzo, BCC, CSSBB, Director of Health Services Research and Quality, oversees projects devoted to the strategic assessment, planning and management of chaplaincy services and to developing the evidence for the efficacy of chaplaincy care. Widely regarded as one of the foremost authorities on the deployment and practice of professional health care chaplaincy, Rev. Handzo has authored or co-authored over 50 chapters and articles on the practice of spiritual care and chaplaincy care and was the co-principal investigator on a major grant from the John Templeton Foundation investigating the contribution of spiritual care to health care. He is board certified by the Spiritual Care Association.  George is also a board certified member and past president of the Association of Professional Chaplains which in 2011 awarded him the Anton Boisen Professional Service award, its highest honor.

Sue Wintz, MDiv BCC is the managing editor of Plainviews® and Director, Professional and Community          Education at HealthCare Chaplaincy Network.  She is also the Director of Education for the Spiritual   Care Association. Sue has over 35 years of clinical, administrative, writing, educational design, development and teaching experience in the provision of professional chaplaincy and spiritual care in numerous health care, and community settings as well as an expert advisor to interdisciplinary professional organizations. Sue has authored numerous articles on chaplaincy care practice and develops professional education courses for chaplains, chaplaincy students, and other health care disciplines.  She is board certified by the Spiritual  Care Association.  Sue is also a board certified member and past president of the Association of  Professional Chaplains who, in 2013 gave her its highest honor - the Anton Boisen Professional Service Award.



PlainViews® is a publication of HealthCare Chaplaincy Network™.   Credit when sharing an article should include this information as well as citing volume and issue numbers.