View a video interview with Greg Friese below this article.
From the time he was a Boy Scout earning a merit badge in first aid, Greg Friese, MS, NREMT-P, knew he was interested in healthcare. He took a job as a camp counselor at the Camp Manito-wish YMCA, where he was required to take CPR and wilderness first aid classes. It wasn’t a big leap for him to realize that EMS might be a viable life path.
During his undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin and his graduate work at the University of Idaho, he studied recreation, adult education and community programming. Still, the medical field called to him.
“In 1999, I was living in Boulder Junction, Wis., and wanted to join the fire department as an EMT, so I took an EMT basic class,” says Friese. “I enjoyed my time with patients and seeing if my interventions would make a difference.”
By 2002, he knew he wanted to become a paramedic, and he made that a reality in 2005. “Because of my recreation and adult programming background, I got involved as an educator,” he says. “I’m an action-oriented guy always looking for new things to do, and that background in teaching and writing opened up a lot of opportunities for me. I stepped right into them.”
The seemingly disparate paths of medicine, adult programming and education neatly dovetailed into the career Friese now enjoys as director of education for CentreLearn Solutions LLC, based in Shrewsbury, Pa. The company specializes in meeting the training and continuing education needs of thousands of medical professionals, private companies, local and state government agencies and the military. Their learning management system is specially designed for EMTs, paramedics and firefighters.
“We have a library of continuing education lessons, many of which I have helped develop as a writer or editor working with other subject matter experts,” says Friese. “A learning management system allows a fire department or EMS agency to put their training online. A learning management system also makes that content always available when the user is available to complete it, so personnel can train while on duty. And you can track who has completed the training.”
The Power of an Idea
You would think that overseeing e-learning content for an organization like this would be enough for someone like Greg Friese, but you’d be wrong. Did we mention he’s an action-oriented guy?
“I once had a position as the coordinator of the North Central Regional Trauma Advisory Council of Wisconsin, and part of my role was to do trauma-related education for EMS providers,” Friese says. “I did 10 episodes of a podcast for that region, interviewing different trauma care experts, and made that available as an education piece for the EMTs and paramedics in that service area” Interestingly, the podcasts actually had more listeners out of state and around the world than in Wisconsin.
The power of podcasting specifically, and social media generally, stuck with Friese. He began experimenting with Twitter, Facebook, and blogging and making connections with others throughout the EMS community who also had interest—and actual programs—in the social media world. One such man was Chris Montera (profiled on p. 18), who already hosted a podcast called EMS Garage and was getting ready to launch another podcast called EMS Leadership, which would be aimed at EMS managers and supervisors. The two men struck up a friendship.
“I e-mailed [Montera] and told him he should think about doing an EMS-related podcast,” Friese says. “He e-mailed me back and said, ‘Why don’t you do that? I’ll work with you to launch it.’ An opportunity arose and I went after it.”
Friese then found Buck Feris, another paramedic educator, on Twitter. Together, Friese, Montera and Feris launched EMSEduCast (www.emseducast.com) in February 2009, a podcast by and for EMS educators. The program recently aired its 90th episode. Eventually, Montera, with a full plate of his own, asked to be replaced by Robert Theriault, another paramedic educator. The current team is Robert Theriault and William Toon.
The Podcast Goes Global
EMSEduCast has done programs on everything from deadly force encounters to tactical EMS education and the EMS educator certification exam to other current issues.
“Last fall there was quite a lot in the media about bullying,” says Friese. “Bullying is an issue across all workplaces and must exist in adult education, so we had an expert in workplace bullying on the show.”
The podcast also features international programs because EMS happens all around the world. One show highlighted EMS in Sri Lanka. “After the tsunami, they had a tragic opportunity to restart all social institutions, including EMS,” Friese says. “We talked to someone who is a part of EMS in Sri Lanka and asked them about the service model and education system.”
Friese has interviewed EMS educators in Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Australia for the show. Getting international speakers, however, can be tough.
“The challenge is three-fold: first to find somebody, second to find somebody confident enough in their English skills to talk about EMS and their country, and third to find someone who is willing to get up in the middle of the night,” says Friese. “We record at 7:30 p.m. Central here in the U.S. I admire the Europeans we’ve had on the show who are talking to us at 2 a.m. [their time].”
Friese says he gets a number of speaker recommendations from listeners and EMS experts requesting to be on the show. He thinks about topics he’d like to know more about and invites those expert speakers, or, he says, he invites the authors of articles he reads in JEMS.
The program has a worldwide listenership and has gained popularity through word of mouth. Many listeners talk about the programs with their colleagues. And, of course, other podcast programs promote each other’s shows, including EMSEduCast.
Although it’s difficult to pin down the exact number of listeners tuning in because someone can just click on a link to hear it, Friese does track the number of downloads each program receives. Since September 2009, EMSEduCast’s 90 episodes have had more than 93,000 combined downloads, or an average of 1,000 downloads per episode. “Someone can go back today and download every episode for free,” he says.
Bringing Education to the People
The real benefit in podcasting something like EMSEduCast is the ability to reach anyone in the world for free 24/7. A community college may offer classes to a small group of EMTs or paramedic instructors, but the EMSEduCast, and indeed the whole family of EMS podcasts mentioned, offers free access to a wide variety of expert instructors that listeners might never have the opportunity to hear in person. Podcasting breaks down geographic and economic barriers and allows everyone the same access to information, eliminating the need for people to be in the same space. It’s the most democratic form of education, says Friese.
“EMSEduCast listeners tell us that it’s valuable for them to hear other educators talk about issues and topics that are relevant, topics that provide ideas and opportunities,” says Friese. “Our listeners seek out our experts at conferences, or contact them directly, so we’re bringing educators a little bit closer together.”
The EMSEduCast project reinvigorated Friese’s own passion for EMS and education, allowing him to start connecting nationally and internationally with EMS educators. “We have [in essence] a license to call anyone [from] all over the world who is involved with EMS education, tell them about the show, and ask them to join the conversation,” he says. “We’ve done some amazing shows and brought them to the world.”
Friese is most pleased the podcast has expanded the network of EMS educators and professionals to people all over the world who share similar interests through the simple, yet powerful, means of social networking.
Whether listeners are focused on leadership, education, or field operations, EMSEduCast plays a role in moving the EMS profession forward, and that makes Friese proud. “The fact that we can communicate with each other regularly and encourage and share ideas is powerful,” he says. “It keeps me motivated.”