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The role of the chaplaincy in emergency services

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Drawing on three decades of clinical chaplaincy practice, scholarship and original research, Russell Myers charts the map, making the case for ambulance service chaplaincy: how to think about it and how to do it.

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Russ Myers, Nikki Holm and Gwen Powell are chaplains at Allina Health Emergency Medical Services and in this episode, they join Rob Lawrence to discuss the role of chaplaincy in EMS. The guests discuss their role and responsibilities as well as the book, “Because We Care: A Handbook for Chaplaincy in Emergency Medical Services,” written by Russ Myers.

Over the past half century, the field of chaplaincy has come to a fork in the road. Many will recognize the well-traveled path of traditional chaplaincy. Others will follow the newer but clearly marked way to professional chaplaincy: a clinically trained, evidence-based discipline, reflecting and serving the diverse expressions of spirituality in modern society. Until now, chaplaincy in EMS has been the terra incognita, the unknown land on the map. Drawing on three decades of clinical chaplaincy practice, scholarship and original research, Russell Myers charts the map, making the case for ambulance service chaplaincy: how to think about it and how to do it.


“For me it’s all about love, how can I bring some light, some life, some love into the world, and I am able to do that in these situations by just showing up as we call in chaplaincy – the ministry of presence.” —Gwen Powell

“I do this work is to come alongside people and remind them of their humanity to help them break down their defenses and their shields to get back to the truth of who they are, to help them be seen and heard and taken care of.” —Nikki Holm


1:23 – Introduction Russ Myers

2:43 – Introduction Nikki Holm

4:00 – Introduction Gwen

7:35 – Book discussion: Because We Care – The Role of the Chaplaincy in Emergency Services

11:20 – Terra Incognita

12:30 – What motivates a chaplain?

15:30 – A chaplaincy intervention story

20:15 – A chaplain’s workload

23:00 – Being Proactive: Establishing a trusting relationship with the workforce

23:30 – Being Reactive: when an incident or issue occurs

30:15 – Education and being a presence during training

34:58 – If you are thinking about introducing g a chaplain

36:30 – Moral Injury and the social contract

40:40 – Overcoming the staff stigma about coming forward

42:00 – Close



Russell Myers serves as a chaplain for Allina Health Emergency Medical Services, based in Minneapolis. He holds a BA from Ohio State University and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota. Russ is ordained by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and is board certified with the Association of Professional Chaplains. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Gwen Powell is an ordained episcopal priest and board-certified professional chaplain who has been working with Allina EMS since 2020. Prior to working for Allina, she provided spiritual care to patients and staff on the adolescent behavioral health units at the M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center. Gwen graduated from Valparaiso University with a degree in psychology in 2008 and earned her Master of Science in Psychology from Kansas State University in 2010. She earned her Master of Divinity from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN in 2014 and has been passionate about mental health chaplaincy since beginning her ministry work in 2015. In her free time, she likes to beat her husband and kids at Mario Kart, exercise, walk/hike with her family, watch baseball, and sing with the Northern Lights Chorale.

Nikki Holm has been engaged in the meaningful work of EMS Chaplaincy through Allina Health since the Spring of 2020. Prior to making the transition to EMS, Nikki provided spiritual care and health education in an outpatient mental health setting for several years. Nikki was board certified with the Board of Chaplaincy Certification Inc. in 2017, graduated with a Master’s degree in Spirituality from St. John’s School of Theology in 2007 and with a Bachelor’s degree in Theology from The College of St. Benedict in 2005. Nikki lives in an earth home with her husband, their three beloved children, and three furry companions. Outside of soaking up life with her littles, Nikki enjoys rock climbing, writing, reading, yoga, gardening, and otherwise spending time with her tribe. Contact Nikki at


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Rob Lawrence has been a leader in civilian and military EMS for over a quarter of a century. He is currently the director of strategic implementation for PRO EMS and its educational arm, Prodigy EMS, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and part-time executive director of the California Ambulance Association.

He previously served as the chief operating officer of the Richmond Ambulance Authority (Virginia), which won both state and national EMS Agency of the Year awards during his 10-year tenure. Additionally, he served as COO for Paramedics Plus in Alameda County, California.

Prior to emigrating to the U.S. in 2008, Rob served as the COO for the East of England Ambulance Service in Suffolk County, England, and as the executive director of operations and service development for the East Anglian Ambulance NHS Trust. Rob is a former Army officer and graduate of the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and served worldwide in a 20-year military career encompassing many prehospital and evacuation leadership roles.

Rob is a board member of the Academy of International Mobile Healthcare Integration (AIMHI) as well as chair of the American Ambulance Association’s State Association Forum. He writes and podcasts for EMS1 and is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board. Connect with him on Twitter.