Essential workers always on the clock

In Evanston and the surrounding area, each major holiday will be a day off for people in most industries; however, there are many for whom that is not the case. These essential workers alter their holiday plans in order to keep the community running. 

 Among these essential workers are emergency dispatchers like Destany Thomas. Thomas and her seven co-workers work between eight- and twelve-hour shifts, holidays included. “We take all emergent and non-emergent calls for Uinta County and help provide life-saving measures for medical calls,” said Thomas. They send the proper units to each call, sometimes multiple at a time, and do significant amounts of paperwork. 

 In order to maintain communications between emergency services and the community, dispatchers are constantly required. “We miss any sort of family time,” said Thomas. “Dinners, family get-togethers, even school programs. Only so many people can have the day off. Someone has to be there 24/7, 365 days a year.” Dispatchers are able to request time off, but it is on a first-come, first-serve basis. According to Thomas, there is an upside. “Not being home with family on someone’s birthday or any given holiday does suck, but in turn we get to sit and help people within our community, make a difference and try our best to meet people’s needs when they need us.” 

 Nurses are another important group of essential workers.  “It’s not like working at a bank,” said Angie Foster, a registered nurse (RN) and the Chief Nursing Officer at Evanston Regional Hospital (ERH.) Similarly to emergency dispatchers, hospital employees work year-round with no guaranteed days off. “This is the most responsible and reliable group there is.” Kelly Davenport, another RN, said the staff tend to adapt to scheduling difficulties, celebrating holidays as time allows. This means that one nurse may celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, while another may arrange festivities for the week prior. 

The hospital will have normal weekend staffing during Christmas, with approximately 25 employees. Nurses, radiologists and clerks will work for 12 hours, and a physician will have a 24-hour shift. Dietary staff will work eight hours. Respiratory staff and an OR team will be on call. “At times we miss out on things,” said Foster, “but the staff are really good at covering for each other.”   

EMTs and firefighters are likewise active throughout the holidays. Uinta County Fire and Ambulance (UCFA) Chief Administrative Officer Eric Quinney said, “911 is a 24/7 job, in terms of being able to respond to any type of emergency.” These emergencies, Quinney noted, are still active during the holiday season. “They still exist and people still need help…people are driving and there’re all sorts of emergencies.” 

Like the other workers, EMTs work 12-hour shifts on call, responding to events which arise during that period. Some volunteers work a handful of shifts in a month, while others are more regularly available. “Not everyone is available to work on the holiday shifts, but we have a lot of volunteers who are dedicated and sign up to help people on those holidays.”

About 50 EMTs and 50 firefighters work for UCFA in total. At any point in time, three EMTs are working in Evanston, while another three are on the clock in Bridger Valley.

Firefighters respond as emergencies arise. UCFA volunteers miss family functions throughout the year, often without warning. “Certainly, most of our volunteers, if not all of our volunteers, are willing to give up that family time and those holiday meals to be able to go out and help somebody else.” 

Quinney emphasized the dedication of volunteers. “It’s no fun to work on a holiday, but we certainly have dedicated volunteers willing to go out when it’s snowing and blowing just to help other people.”

Quinney is thankful for the UCFA volunteers working year-round. “My biggest point to drive across is being grateful for the volunteers- the firefighters and EMTs we have here in Uinta County.” 

Trevor Rasmussen, a former Mountain View law enforcement officer and future Uinta County undersheriff, has spent 30 years in law enforcement, working “pretty much all of the holidays.”

Rasmussen said that those in law enforcement sacrifice the majority of family functions. “You work a lot of really strange hours.” Days are broken into morning, swing and night shifts. Much of the time, officers like Rasmussen arrive to work as others are ending their days. “That’s when you come out- when no one’s out and about.”  

Shifts are 10 hours for four days per week, with officers on call during their assigned weeks. In Mountain View, shifts are split between about four employees by Rasmussen’s estimate, and the Uinta County Sheriff’s Office staffs about 32. Officers can request time off, but most often simply stay home according to their schedules. “You usually just celebrate a day later.” 

Rasmussen says his job is highly stressful, and recalled a quote he had once heard. “Law enforcement is nine hours of boredom, 10 minutes of sheer terror, then several hours of report writing.” He said that a perpetual spotlight makes the job especially difficult. “It’s a lot of stress because everyone’s eyes are on you.” 

Video News
More In Homepage