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5 things to know about EMS chaplains

Here’s an overview of what EMS chaplains do and how you can become one


EMS chaplains are available 24/7, including weekends and holidays.

Photo/Saint Paul Area Synod

It’s no secret that EMS providers have a dangerous job.

While we want every responder to return home safely after a shift, sadly it doesn’t always happen.

In the event of a sudden death, seriously injured responder or line of duty death, an EMS chaplain provides both counseling to responders and other department members.

EMS providers often help people on the worst day of their life. In the same way, EMS chaplains provide a service to EMS departments through the worst of times. And much like EMS – chaplains are available 24/7, including weekends and holidays.

Here’s an overview of what EMS chaplains do and how you can become one.

1. What does an EMS chaplain do?

An EMS chaplain’s job is not an easy one. Their main purpose is to help EMS providers and other department members in the event of an injured or killed responder. They’re also available to personnel for grief counseling. They lend an ear for those who need to talk about something that is bothering them, such as physical or emotional stress. An EMS chaplain’s goal is to aid, comfort and help responders and their families, according to the Federation of Fire Chaplains.

2. EMS chaplains and religion

EMS chaplains, while bound in religious tradition, can also serve as non-denominational and non-sectarian in his or her chaplaincy. An EMS chaplain will usually find out a responder’s or family of a responder’s religious preference and notify a nearby church.

3. Are EMS chaplains paid?

Most EMS chaplains are volunteers. However, some may be employed either part-time or full-time by a department or outside agency and receive compensation.

4. Who serves as an EMS chaplain?

An EMS chaplain can be appointed by his or her department and must be endorsed by their religious organization. In rural areas, an EMS chaplain can be a local pastor who volunteers their time to help a department. There are also responders who have ministry experience that volunteer their time when off-duty to do chaplain work.

5. How to become an EMS chaplain

Every department has different needs, depending on where you live. While a large department may have five EMS chaplains, a volunteer department would most likely rely on area pastors for their EMS chaplain needs. Reach out to your local department and set up a meeting to speak to the EMS chief about their chaplain needs. Basic requirements to become an EMS chaplain include five years of ministry experience, a clean criminal record and you must be ecclesiastically certified or endorsed by a recognized religious body. The selection process usually includes individual and panel interviews; background, fingerprint and reference checks are also part of the process.

Drawing on three decades of clinical chaplaincy practice, Russell Myers makes the case for ambulance service chaplaincy-how to think about it and how to do it.

This article, originally published August 21, 2017, has been updated.

Sarah Calams, who previously served as associate editor of and, is the senior editor of and In addition to her regular editing duties, Sarah delves deep into the people and issues that make up the public safety industry to bring insights and lessons learned to first responders everywhere.

Sarah graduated with a bachelor’s degree in news/editorial journalism at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. Have a story idea you’d like to discuss? Send Sarah an email or reach out on LinkedIn.