Hustling on the holidays


Heather Sandfort (right) , a Pitt emergency medicine graduate, work as a paramedic on holidays such as Christmas, the Fourth of July, Easter and her birthday. (Photo courtesy of Heather Sandfort)

By Zoe Pawliczek | Staff Writer

After the last bus home for the holidays leaves Pitt, few students remain in the dorms and on campus —  those who do stay often work, including Nordenberg Resident Assistant Liam Monahan.

“I’m looking forward to being productive over the break, prepping for finals and hanging with the other RA on duty in Nordenberg for Thanksgiving,” the senior politics and philosophy major said.

The incentives for staying on campus over Thanksgiving break include working one less weekend shift and not having Spring Break duty, according to Monahan.

This benefits package was enticing enough that Nordenberg Hall held a lottery to determine who would work the Wednesday to Sunday holiday shift. Monahan and fellow RA Zachary Mattson beat out three other Nordenberg RAs. They plan to spend Thanksgiving with Nordenberg Resident Director James Sparkman, who offered to cook Thanksgiving dinner for Monahan and Mattson in his on-campus apartment.

“Overall, the pros outweigh the cons,” Monahan said.

Resident Assistants aren’t the only student employees that see the benefits of working a holiday shift. Employees that work holidays find that the work is easier and that they can continue to earn money, occasionally getting paid overtime.

Melissa White — a Pitt alumna who graduated last spring with a degree in media and professional communications — frequently worked on campus during holidays such as Labor Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a computer lab consultant with Computing Service and Systems Development.

“The computer labs were usually pretty quiet during breaks, so CSSD would reduce the amount of people working and I remember we would only keep a few labs open,” White said. “It would be quiet so I would do my homework or find a way to be productive.”

In addition to part-time students, off-campus, full-time staff also step up for holiday duty at their jobs, providing round-the-clock care when needed.

At Eastern Area PreHospital Services — an emergency medical care provider in Turtle Creek, servicing Swissvale, Wilkinsburg and the surrounding area— Tim Welch has worked every holiday at least once.

This year he will be on duty for Halloween, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day as an Emergency Medical Technician and Grievance Officer for the Union. He finds there are both pros and cons when it comes to working during those times of the year.

At EAPS it’s double time, so we’re making crazy money,” Welch said. “It’s always kind of sad though — those routine illnesses, injuries and deaths always seem to be much more depressing around the holiday season.”

A former colleague of Welch’s, Heather Sandfort graduated Pitt in 2016 with a degree in emergency medicine. During her time at EAPS, she worked as a paramedic on holidays such as Christmas, the Fourth of July, Easter and her birthday.

With no family in the area, Sandfort found ways to stay festive with her coworkers during these shifts. She and her fellow employees incorporated holiday traditions into their workplace around these celebrated times of the year.

“We would make the most of our holidays at work by dressing up for Halloween, grilling on the Fourth of July and decorating a Christmas tree at the station,” Sandfort said.

No one wants to spend their holiday working, according to Sandfort, but both she and White agree that if you’re close to your coworkers, they can turn a boring holiday shift into a meaningful one.

“I find that coworkers make a difference,” White said. “Most of the people that I have worked with during the holidays have been happy to work, which made my experiences better.”