GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The largest class of paramedics from Life EMS Ambulance graduated Thursday evening. It comes as the state is in desperate need of more first responders.
Michigan currently needs about 1,000 more EMS workers, and 20 people from Life EMS are joining the ranks to serve the state.
"It really is an amazing feeling," Elyzabeth Martinez, one of the graduates, says.
She's a third generation first responder.
"For me, it runs in the family," Martinez says. "My grandpa is retired fire investigator, and my dad is a captain of the Grand Rapids Fire Department. So it kind of felt natural."
Her family joined the ceremony at the Life EMS Ambulance's new Innovation and Education Centre.
"She could have done anything else she wanted," Pablo Martinez, her grandfather, says. "But she chose to be a first responder. (I'm) certainly proud."
Martinez knows she's getting into an industry that really needs people.
"We're getting text messages from our supervisors almost every single day asking for people to come in to fill extra positions to work overtime hours," she says.
While there is still a shortage of EMTs and paramedics in the state, Michigan Association of Ambulance Services Executive Director Angela Madden says classes statewide have been filling up more this year.
"To be able to bring new EMTs and paramedics into the field will alleviate some of their current workforce's overtime and burnout and all of those other mental health components that we're seeing in these industries that are under such a severe staffing crisis," she says.
$30 Million has been dedicated by the state legislature to the shortage. The money will fund grants and scholarships for future first responders.
"The possibility of these dollars being able to use to help start education programs to encourage local community members to go to school is also a really big deal," Madden says.
The Martinez family says the job is not for the faint of heart.
"We deal with with injury, we deal with death," Joaquin Martinez, her father, says. "It's a difficult job, both physically and mentally."
But Martinez and her peers are ready to serve the community.
"As of now, I'm planning to stay with Life EMS. I'm really really excited," she says.
The first round of applications for the state's scholarship and grant fund for future first responders closes on December 21st.
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