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Going 'Inside EMS': How two EMS veterans' virtual squad room educates, entertains

For 150 episodes and counting, Chris Cebollero and Kelly Grayson have answered listener questions, discussed career field improvements and given back to the profession

It's not unusual for two partners to be sitting in the front of an ambulance arguing about news, politics and religion.

But what happens when you have two partners arguing in a virtual ambulance?

Well, then you get the always entertaining Chris Cebollero and the "Ted Nugent of EMS" Kelly Grayson. At least that's how their podcast, "Inside EMS," announces them at the start of each show.

Chris Cebollero (left) and Kelly Grayson (right).
Chris Cebollero (left) and Kelly Grayson (right).

For Cebollero and Grayson, the premise of the podcast is based on that partnership. Sometimes they laugh, argue and make fun of each other, but it's a relationship that mimics their career field.

And for the two veteran EMS providers, it's a relationship that continues to grow and allows them to stay close to the roots of where they started from in EMS.

'Welcome to Inside EMS'

"Inside EMS," a podcast series aimed at bringing expert perspective to hot topics, clinical issues, and operational and leadership lessons to EMS personnel and leaders to be safe and successful, started on April 3, 2014.

Although the crew recently posted its 150th episode – a major milestone in EMS-related podcasts – Cebollero still remembers the very first show.

"We talked about the bad mudslide in Washington State. It still is very fresh," Cebollero said. "When we go back to the premise of saying we're two guys sitting in a truck talking, we actually have to talk about people being buried alive. It seemed weird to be doing it outside the confines of a truck, but that started the momentum of where we are today."

The show, Cebollero said, also gives him a chance to stay current on all things EMS.

"A lot of the time we talk about what we already know, but when we listen we learn something new," Cebollero said. "I don't think that's something we do very well in EMS. We invite people to join us to listen to some good, entertaining fun, but it's also our listeners' opportunity to tell us that we're full of it or that we're hitting the mark."

The end result? Cebollero says it's simple – working toward delivering the highest quality of patient care.

"We're there to take that process along. We're the voice of the people in the field," he said. "Even though I have leadership experience and background, I'm a paramedic. I know what it was like to not have the equipment to do the job. I know what it's like to not have my ideas listened to. I know what it's like to have poor leadership. We want to be able to relate to the people that are feeling the things that we felt in our careers."

Grayson, who approaches most topics with a "boots on the ground" perspective, agreed that there's always something to talk about in EMS.

"Chris has a different perspective than I do. We agree on a lot of things, but he also takes a more managerial view of EMS issues," Grayson said. "The arguing we do is all in good fun, but I like to have that debate."

You don’t have to be a longtime listener to catch on to their good-natured ribbing.

Growing a relationship, partnership

Grayson first met Cebollero when he was teaching a class at EMS World Expo.

"I was impressed by Chris. He's a great speaker, very animated and dynamic," Grayson said. "We were acquaintances for a while, but I was flattered when I was approached to be a host on 'Inside EMS' alongside Chris."

Cebollero said he knew who Grayson was before they officially met, but working together has given him a deeper respect and closeness than before they started the show.

"I joke with him that he's just ordinary, but he's certainly one of the premiere educators in our field," Cebollero said. "After three years, our time together has taught me more about his philosophies, motivations, has given me the opportunity to be able to speak for him and also to know what buttons to push if I want to irritate him."

There are certainly many opportunities to push buttons – especially if it's on a topic Cebollero and Grayson disagree on.

"We have those areas that we disagree on, but that's what makes us fun," Cebollero said. "That's what partners do. One of the things that we wanted to do from the very beginning was for the podcast to be challenging."

Grayson said most listeners play the podcast during their commute or while they're posting in their ambulance. Some, he said, get ribbed by their partners and argue similarly.

"That's meta right there – where we get an ambulance crew arguing about the virtual ambulance crew," he said.

Listeners, Grayson said, are a growing core group of people that download every episode.

A dedicated listenership

One of Cebollero's goals for "Inside EMS" is to obtain the highest number of episodes within the EMS career field for a podcast.

"Sometimes, I don’t think people are listening, but a lot of people will come up and say they love our show," Cebollero said. "To me, I think that's what it's all about. We're doing this show for our EMS colleagues and to get the kudos makes it all worthwhile."

Growing listenership is on the top of Grayson's list for podcast goals. And although he lets the flow of the EMS news day dictate his discussion on the show, he hopes to speak more about provider mental health, education and leadership and clinical topics in future podcasts.

"There comes a point in your career that you don’t think so much about your paycheck and your next patient as you think about your role in the profession and where it's going," Grayson said. "You become a steward of your profession. And 'Inside EMS' gives me a fairly big bully pulpit to influence that. I want to continue to be a voice that's sought out and have my opinions heard. I'm proud to do this for my profession."

An ever-popular phrase from Grayson is – if you've seen one EMS agency, then you've seen one EMS agency. The show's "virtual squad room," Grayson said, brings a perspective that's broader than a local ambulance service's view.

"Chris and I get the chance to interact with people from hundreds of agencies every year. We take a big picture view and one of the things about 'Inside EMS' is that it allows EMS providers to get outside their bubble and see what's going on in their profession around the rest of the country."

No matter how many – or little – years you have in EMS, most educators and EMS providers will agree that they want to foster lifelong learners. That notion is no different for Cebollero and Grayson.

"We've had so many great guests and so many great personalities," Cebollero said.

A guest Cebollero learned the most from was Dominick Walenczak.

Walenczak, a podcast listener, paramedic from Buffalo, N.Y., and also a podcast host for Critmedic.com, talked about the many new diagnostic tools EMS providers are using aimed at prehospital care. He broke down why more EMS providers should embrace the use of ultrasound in the field.

"I'm not a proponent of it – I don't agree that ultrasound has a place in the EMS career field, especially from a prehospital side," Cebollero said. "But his argument was very persuading and gave me a different perspective to consider. It was very enlightening for me."

Walenczak was brought on the show after responding to the show's initial episode diving into whether or not EMS relies too heavily on diagnostic tools.

Receiving questions and emails from listeners, Grayson said, is one of his favorite things about the show.

However, one guest in particular caught his attention.

Kimberly Stanford, a mother of an autistic child, created a program to help EMTs with autistic patients. The training gives providers an understanding of autism, how to identify it and how to calm a patient down.

Stanford also created a sensory kit that ambulances can carry and use with patients on the spectrum. The kit, meant to distract the patient, contains a headset to block noise, weighted pads, soft things to chew on for patients that are oral and several toys.

"She really changed my perspective and I'm looking into getting an autism response kit for our ambulance," Grayson said.

Sometimes, a change in perspective can be the difference between life and death. Other times, it allows EMS providers, including Cebollero and Grayson, to get outside their virtual squad bubble and stay connected to what's going on inside EMS.

Subscribe to "Inside EMS" on iTunes or listen on SoundCloud

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