CAS senior juggles academics with duties as an EMT


Written by Kelly Stincer, CAS communications intern

enlarged photo of Zach ButlerIt's 4 a.m. on a Monday and Zach Butler is up, not studying for his exam tomorrow, but resuscitating a man who just experienced a cardiac arrest.

Zach is a senior Public Administration major with a minor in Latin American Studies, but he is much more than just a student; he is also a firefighter and emergency medical technician, or EMT, for the Oxford Fire Department.

"Honestly, I just like helping people. As cliché as it sounds, it really is the reason why I do it. I love it," says Zach when asked why he became a firefighter/EMT.

Though only 22 years old, Zach has experienced more critical and stressful situations than most people have in their lives and has juggled all of that while working as a resident assistant, member of student organizations, and being a full-time student.

When asked how he manages his time, Butler responds, "I'm definitely overwhelmed, but I just give everything the time it needs. If there is something that is concrete like class, being on duty as a residential assistant (RA), and having my shift at the firehouse, it gets done. The hard part is the stuff that isn't concrete, like incidents with my residents, so I just have to go with the flow."

Juggling a busy, grueling schedule

Zach works as an EMT every sixth day, and each workday is usually a 12-hour shift from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. He also works special events throughout Oxford when necessary, like Miami athletic games or community events and festivals.

Zach's coworker, Adam Stitsinger, says that Zach has become a regular on their team at the station and says that being a student gives Zach a unique advantage.

"Zach is very familiar with the campus and buildings," Stitsinger says. "Also, being a college student, he brings a sense of being able to relate to the student patients, and is able to help them get through ordeals that they're having."

Becoming an EMT takes only one semester. It is listed as KNH 453T, but it cannot be signed up for on the university's BannerWeb online class registration system and is only known by word of mouth.

"It takes 180 hours, plus labs and clinicals—clinicals are ride time in a fire department and time in an emergency room," Zach says. "After that, you have to pass the final exam, which releases you from the course and allows you to take the national registry. Once the national registry test is passed, the EMT can work in any fire department around the country, for which you also hold a state card."

Though Zach's major is focused in public administration, he has shifted his interest into the medical field. The fact that he gets to help people is especially why it is so appealing to him. Zach is unsure about what he wants to do with his majors, but he does know that he has a passion for lending a helping hand and being of aid to others, and his career will fulfill just that.

"It's like being an education major—you may not know what grade you want to teach or what subject, but you know you want to teach," he said. "For me, I want to help people. How I do it is unsure, but I'm going to make a difference in people's lives, and that will make me happy."

The constant pressure of life and death

Due to the at-times grim demands of his EMT work, Zach has quickly learned that it is his responsibility to do his best to protect precious lives.

"He is great to work with," Stitsinger says, "He has earned the right to wear the uniform and has proven himself over and over as a member of our crew."

In his most memorable EMT experience, Zach was called to an Oxford residence where a middle-aged woman overdosed on heroin and was dead for minutes before he arrived. The team began compressions and oxygen administration while Zach set up the IV bag to allow the paramedic to inject an opiate antagonist, which brought her back to life seconds later.

It is moments like this that reassure Zach he is making a difference and helping others. It is because of people like him that the rest of us can all go about our lives and rely on public safety professionals to be there whenever we need them. It takes a special kind of person to be able to volunteer for a 12-hour night shift every week just in the event that someone needs their help.

Zach was also among 15 graduating seniors recently honored with the 2015 Miami University President's Distinguished Service Award for his contributions to campus, the greater community and higher education.

Despite having so much on his plate, Zach still finds it pertinent that he takes time to volunteer as a firefighter/EMT.

"I love doing this," he says. "I don't think I could be an EMT full-time or for a living, but I consider it like a club. I want to keep doing it when I'm older and have an established life, wherever I end up."