HONOLULU (KHON2) — Reinforcements have arrived and it couldn’t have come at a better time considering the recent staffing issues. The small graduating class of EMTs, gives a much-needed boost to the city’s Emergency Medical Services department.

It was a small ceremony, celebrating a big accomplishment.

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Just over a dozen graduated in Honolulu’s 3rd EMS, Emergency Technician Academy, class 61. Something expected to have a positive impact on EMS according to Dr. Jim Ireland, the Honolulu EMS Director.

“For us this is especially important because for we’re getting new employees new members of our EMS family. And it comes at a time when we have increased calls all the EMS personnel are just running so hard the addition is going to be very welcome,” Ireland said.

“Everyone is excited to just go out there and make a difference and do what we’ve been trained to do,” said graduate Duke Fujii.

That optimism and enthusiasm is exactly what EMS needs at a time when morale has been low and ongoing staffing issues have continued to plague the department.

For the graduates, getting to this point hasn’t been easy. They’ve been through nearly six months of training learning everything from how to properly operate an ambulance to assisting paramedics with patients.

“It’s been long and hard, a lot of setting to do but it’s paying off,” said Fujii.

“It was a challenge,” added fellow graduate Jane Cabusao “but definitely rewarding and finally were here at the end of the tunnel.”

Not everyone that was accepted made it to this point. The class size dropped from its original number of 20 to 14.

During the graduation ceremony, EMS assistant Cheif Korey Chock commended the group for not giving up.

“The perseverance that this group has shown has been quite spectacular,” Chock said.

He went on to explain that they started the process back in 2020 during the height of the pandemic.

The pool of candidates narrowed down from nearly 800.

The graduates are already city employees earning around $48,000 a year. A perk of being accepted into the academy.

Ireland said they have just a few more steps until they are officially out in the field.

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“At this point, they’ll come back for reorientation and some driving and some reorientation on city policies they’ll undergo any evaluation. Which can take anywhere from two to four weeks and then they’ll be ready to work.”

The 4th EMT academy is expected to begin this summer.