. - Tens of thousands of students back on the University of Arizona campus means more calls for help to first responders.
In 60 cases since August 19 this year, the ones answering those calls are fellow students, according to University EMS Chief Zach Saxman.
"It's probably been one of our busiest years yet," he said.
The state and nationally certified organization handled 680 calls last year, with the most in one month being 75 in September, according to Saxman.
"It's almost baffling that were able to do it, but having the dedicated group of men and women that we do, we are able to pull it off every month," he said.
He said the students who join University EMS provide the same level of care as any other agency in town, but the campus team better connects to the community it serves.
"It's more of a local one on one kind of service that we provide," said Saxman. "We understand the issues that are going on here being students ourselves, and that's what we want to be able to continue with."
Saxman's seen the organization grow from April 2012 when founding members rode bicycles to emergencies. Now, a team of 50 students cover shifts around the clock. The bikes were upgraded to a loaner golf cart, which has now been replaced with a permanent, larger cart. Soon, that'll be the backup ride to the organization's recently acquired Suburban.
"A lot of people see us as just students, when in reality were actually certified professionals," said Assistant Chief Logan Ternes.
Ternes said he applied to University EMS after he learned that anyone working on an ambulance in Arizona has to be at least 21 years old. No ambulance on campus, means no restrictions for an aspiring medical professional.
"I'm lucky in that I knew what I wanted to do since I high school," he said.
Assistant Chief Nikki Taylor wasn't as sure as Ternes when she joined a year and a half ago. She said she signed up at the suggestion of a friend, and was hooked after her first call.
"I just fell in love with it and I worked crazy hours just because I wanted to come back," said Taylor.
She started as a first responder, with only CPR skills, but she trained like anyone else who wants to do more for the organization and the campus community. Taylor and her fellow supervisors agree that dedicating so much time to University EMS is a lesson in time management, but a minute is never wasted. Any lull between emergencies provides time to catch up on school work, because members of University EMS can't slack on
"School always comes first," said Taylor. "But this is a close second though."
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