Young Professional Spotlight: Shanice Scott, Guilford Metro 9-1-1

Shanice Scott is an Emergency Communications Specialist II for Guilford Metro 9-1-1 (GM 9-1-1) in Greensboro, North Carolina. GM 9-1-1 is a large consolidated public safety answering point serving all of Greensboro and Guilford County, with an approximate population of 550,000. Per their website, the center is responsible for more than 425,000 dispatches and approximately 700,000 phone calls annually.

Shanice began her career as a dispatcher four years ago. She has also achieved the title of Certified Training Officer (CTO) and has been training new hires at GM 9-1-1 for the past year. Additionally, she is one of the youngest CTOs at GM 9-1-1. Individuals at her center say she was credited with this responsibility so early in her career because she “stand[s] out for all of the right reasons.” Her co-workers describe her as “patient and kind” and that she “dispatches all [of] her disciplines with ease.” Shanice has received many accolades in her four years with GM 9-1-1, including the Dedication to Attendance Award for 2022 and 2023 and multiple Lifesaving Awards. Shanice regularly volunteers to attend public relations events in order to bring awareness and recognition to the incredible work the team at GM 9-1-1 does daily.

GM 9-1-1 is Shanice’s first experience in public safety. She was drawn to the role by her brother, who was a law enforcement officer at the time. He encouraged her to explore public safety telecommunications as a potential career path he felt would be a good fit. When Shanice applied at GM 9-1-1, her intentions were not to use public safety telecommunications as a jumping-off point for another career but rather to start and grow herself within the industry. Shanice explains that she “genuinely enjoy[s] being the first point of contact for those experiencing emergencies.” In addition to being the first point of contact for those needing help on their worst days, Shanice likes that you never know what you may encounter on any given day. “Every day there is always a new call or new scenario that you come across,” says Shanice. “No two calls are ever the same, which makes the job exciting!”

A typical day at GM 9-1-1 for Shanice starts at morning lineup for a debriefing and pass-on regarding the previous shift. By 0630 hours she is in the communication room to begin taking emergency and non-emergency calls. Depending on the day and assignment, that could mean working a dispatch or call taking position for the twelve-hour shift. Moving forward, Shanice hopes to learn more about the behind-the-scenes aspects of emergency services and management. She hopes that this knowledge will make her a better trainer and help her inspire her trainees and co-workers to expand their careers within emergency services. Through these steps, she hopes to expand her leadership role within her current center, allowing her to impart the knowledge she has acquired to upcoming individuals.

When asked why she believes people are drawn to this type of work, Shanice explains she feels it is because “they want to be able to help people potentially experiencing one of the worst times of their life, and they want to be one of the people to make that day a little bit easier.” Unfortunately, she recognizes that there are too few people currently entering this profession. “This profession needs more people that are passionate about the job,” explains Shanice. She believes that young professionals could be an asset to bringing that passion to the industry as a whole. “I think young professionals coming into the dispatch environment can provide new ways of thinking,” says Shanice. She believes these new ways of thinking can be applied to improving practices on a procedural level within centers. She recognizes that young professionals have a unique and fresh outlook to contribute, but it is equally important to garner input from all generations. According to Shanice, “All generations offer different perspectives on the job,” and these have shaped the changes and growth of the 9-1-1 industry over the years. She tells young professionals that one of the best lessons that can be learned from those preparing to retire is “how to adapt to the constant changes that come with the career.”

In addition to the lack of individuals joining our profession, there are also people leaving for various reasons. Shanice speculates that one of these reasons may include the taxing nature of the calls that are handled by public safety telecommunicators. The very things that can draw individuals to this profession – the variety, the lack of predictability, the overall chaotic nature of emergencies – can also be the same things that turn them away. The uncertainty and unknown of what will be at the other end of the line for any given call can amass enormous amounts of pressure on new and seasoned public safety telecommunicators alike. “You do not really know what to expect when a call drops in your ear,” explains Shanice, “and sometimes the nature of those calls can take a toll on people.” Shanice highlights that this is where strong support systems are crucial, and she believes that this starts with the communications training officer. She urges new public safety telecommunicators to lean into their CTOs and rely on their expertise to guide them through the hurdles they will inevitably face on their journeys. New public safety telecommunicators do not have to walk this road alone, she says. “You will have a CTO that is there with you … and [they will] teach you everything you need to know to be as successful as you can be in this career”.

There are incentives that Shanice feels managers and centers could use to attract and retain passionate candidates. One would be a greater focus on mental health resources. The weight of what public safety telecommunicators have to hear on any given call can be a heavy burden. They need to know that they do not have to shoulder that alone. The key to long-term retention would be not only providing the help that they may need but also providing education about the help available to them. Additionally, providing education to the public on expectations and specifics of the job would likely be beneficial. The benefits in that regard are two-fold, according to Shanice. In one aspect, it would help bridge the gap between the public and public safety telecommunicators. Increasing the understanding between the two could, in turn, help to dissuade some of the pressure and tension that occasionally arises. Secondly, public educational initiatives about a career in public safety telecommunications could encourage interest from potential applicants. Further incentives Shanice thinks could be explored are salary-based incentives such as shift differential pay and increased starting wages.

Like many centers, the call volume in Shanice’s center continues to increase, but the overall number of public safety telecommunicators does not. Shanice feels that through further publicity regarding the true work surrounding 9-1-1, we can ignite a passion in those who want to help people. She feels that “hire rates will increase, and we can continue to serve the public even more efficiently than we do now.”  Shanice is proud to be a public safety telecommunicator and looks forward each day to helping others discover the potential rewards of this career. In her words: “I am glad I found a career that is fulfilling and provides me with the opportunity to connect with other people that have a passion for emergency services.”

Shanice embodies the characteristics of a young professional. From her caring demeanor to her relentless dedication to her duties, she is a true role model to those in her agency and our profession. One of her peers said, “There is so much more that could be said, but I will leave it at this: when I think of someone who I would want to be the face of Guilford Metro 9-1-1, it would be Shanice.”

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