Greg Friese is the Editor-in-Chief of EMS1.com. We recently chatted with Greg about his time as an Editor, what drew him to the EMS industry, and much more in our latest interview.
First off, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
Greg Friese: I have been the editor-in-chief of EMS1 since November 2014. Previously, I was an online educator and writer. I have been an EMT and then paramedic since 2000 and worked at one of Wisconsin’s smallest departments and its largest EMS agency. My time away from work is filled with family activities, coaching youth hockey and soccer, running, camping, hunting, and other outdoor activities.
You are currently the Editor-in-Chief at EMS1.com and Praetorian Digital. How did you come to work for these top digital media properties and what do you like most about your job?
Greg Friese: At a National Association of EMS Educators conference in St. Louis in the early 2000’s, I met Kris Kaull. At the time, I was a contract educator, part-time EMT, and freelance writer. I shared my interest in writing for national publications as a way to build my skill and reputation. Kris started me as a monthly EMS1 columnist. Several hundred articles later, I was offered a full-time position.
There are many appealing aspects to my job. First is connecting EMTs and paramedics to the wider world of EMS through the news and expert-written columns we post to EMS1 every day. Second is the opportunity to broadly influence improvements in patient care and professional development on a massive scale. When we post an article about new treatments or current issues, it will be read and shared by an audience several orders of magnitude greater than in a classroom or conference presentation. Third is the opportunity to mentor and develop emerging writers. I got my start in EMS writing because Kris Kaull, EMS1 co-founder and Nancy Perry, EMS World editor, were willing to give me an opportunity. It is always an honor to receive, edit, and post an EMT or paramedic’s first professional article.
What drew you to the EMS industry and have you always enjoyed writing?
Greg Friese: During and after college, I was a summer camp counselor and wilderness trip leader. Those jobs required first aid, CPR, and lifeguard certification. To lead longer trips, I became a wilderness first responder. When I worked on the full-time staff of Camp Manito-wish YMCA, I joined the Boulder Junction Fire and Rescue department to have better connect with the community. Then I became an EMT and grew to love the challenge of serving my neighbors in a very rural community.
I trace my enjoyment of writing to a high school short story writing class. The teacher really pushed us to write crisply and succinctly. At the University of Wisconsin, I took an agricultural journalism course as an elective and the news writing style really fit the way I think about sharing information and describing events.
I have also always loved to read. I think enjoyment of reading and writing goes hand in hand.
Take us through a typical day in your job and what are some of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of what you do?
Greg Friese: A typical day is collaborating with our editorial team to find, share, and distribute the best news for EMTs, paramedics, dispatchers, firefighters, correctional officers, and police officers. I also spend part of each day corresponding with planning articles, and editing articles from our expert columnists who write monthly as well as contributing authors. Many of the top EMS authorities and educators regularly write for EMS1.
Each day, I also dedicate some time for planning upcoming member newsletters, special coverage projects, and once a week, I set aside time for writing a feature or opinion article.
Out of all the stories you have covered, which one sticks out most in your memory and why?
Greg Friese: When we reported the LODD of Fire Chief Kenneth Lehr, I wrote an editorial asking questions about the incident. Many readers took me to task for posing those questions just hours after the incident and long before the completion of a full investigation, including the man driving the fire engine, Firefighter/Engineer Patrick Cullum. In subsequent days, Cullum and I corresponded by email and phone about the incident. Cullum’s grief, humility, willingness to accept responsibility, and desire to honor Lehr had a significant impact on me.
In the area of EMS, what are some areas that you think could be improved and how do you think this could be done?
Greg Friese: Each community needs to consciously assess its needs and desires for prehospital health care and then allocate the resources to match those needs and desires. Many communities aren’t likely to allocate more for EMS, but at least they will be making an informed decision rather than continuing EMS as they have always done.
I also want providers to remember that no one cares about their safety more than they care. We are often scolded with, “scene safety and BSI”, yet we regularly share news articles of EMS providers killed or injured in a collision without a seatbelt or being suspended for violating a protocol or policy. If you’re physical, emotional, and financial safety is truly most important, it will be apparent in your behaviors.
Do you have any advice for individuals wanting to pursue a writing/journalist position in the EMS industry?
Greg Friese: I asked Michael Perry, EMT and author of Population:485, a memoir about his life and work as an EMT and writer in rural Wisconsin, this question many years ago. Michael grew up on a dairy farm and gave me this analogy, “If you make a pile of shit big enough, someone is bound to notice.”
So write a lot, write some more, be willing to take advice and critique, and write some more. Share what you are writing with friends, family, and strangers.
Lastly, do you have anything else you would like to add?
Greg Friese: Move more, eat less, read for fun, always say yes to more training, work little or no overtime, sleep as much or more than your kids, and you will never regret going back to school to get an Associate’s degree, Bachelor’s degree, or advanced degree.