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A Day in the Life of Hospital Operators

Shaleena Hale (left) and Reva Golden,

(L-R) Shaleena Hale and Reva Golden each answer about 100 calls per hour.

In the 3 years that Reva Golden has worked as a telephone operator at Akron Children’s Hospital, she’s never had to perform a code yellow (external disaster) overhead page that wasn’t a drill – until today.

“We have a lot of code blues (medical emergencies), but code yellows are rare,” said Golden. “When a code is called, it’s important for us to remain calm, but also be on our toes, because you never know what’s coming next.”

Reva Golden

Reva Golden

While Golden and her co-workers wondered aloud about what had happened to necessitate the code, their supervisor soon arrived with details of a chlorine gas exposure at a local school for children with special needs. A quick discussion followed about the number of victims in route and who was available to stay past their shift if needed.

“This job is never boring or monotonous and that’s one of the things I like about it,” said Golden. “We are the heartbeat of the hospital.”

With an average monthly volume of 48,000 calls – about 100 calls an hour per operator – there isn’t much downtime to get bored.

As a part-time employee, Golden works anywhere from 16-32 hours per week, based on the department’s needs..

The telecommunications office houses 4 operators and 23 phones in a small space on the hospital’s first floor.

This isn’t the place to be if you’re seeking quiet time. Phones ring in a loop, going to whichever operator is available.

The operators answer calls coming to both the Akron and Mahoning Valley campuses. Their caller ID indicates where each call is coming from.

Sitting directly behind Golden is Shaleena Hale, who began her career at Akron Children’s in food service 12 years ago.

“When the job opened up in telecommunications, I decided to apply for it because I was ready for something different – something that was more of a challenge,” she said.

Shaleena Hale

Shaleena Hale

Now a 10-year veteran of the telecommunications department, Hale got her wish. In addition to her daily tasks of routing callers and paging staff, Hale adopted a few side projects of her own.

“I learned how to program the 2,500 hospital pagers and put them in the computer so they are set up to receive text pages and emails,” Hale said. “I also like to keep the physicians’ contact information up-to-date and make sure we know their preferred method of contact – especially at night when they are on call.”

The telecommunications operators are the answering service for all hospital-employed physicians, including our 22 pediatrician practices, called Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics.

Hale recently came off 6 years of working night shift so she could spend more time with her husband.

“It’s a 180-degree change from working nights and days,” said Hale. “During the day everyone is awake and offices are open. At night I was always apologizing for waking someone up.”

Hale and Golden have ready access to manual directories and computer software that list the phone numbers and extensions for all hospital employees, residents, departments and physician offices.

An up-to-date patient list is printed out 3 times a day, giving the operators a manual reference if their computers go down. Patients who don’t want information given out aren’t listed in the database.
IMG_8550-3356982708-O“I’ve memorized between 600-700 phone numbers over the years just by sheer repetition and use,” said Hale.

Golden likens her job to doing detective work. A recent caller was looking for a doctor who performed surgery on her 16 years ago. In this case, Golden asked about the kind of surgery and if she remembered her doctor’s last name, which allowed her to connect the caller to the right department.

Golden and Hale – as well as the rest of the operators – take customer service to heart.

“Customer service is a big part of our job,” said Hale. “We are expected to remain calm in a crisis and be knowledgeable, courteous and empathetic. Our purpose is to get callers connected to the person, office or department they’re trying to reach.”

Telephone operators receive 2 weeks of training on department procedures, including how to handle emergency calls and codes. Each operator trains on all shifts and works with another experienced operator for the first month on the job.

“We are an important part of the patient care team,” said Hale. “We don’t dispense medical advice or care, but we take care of callers by getting them to the people who can.”

If you’re interested in a career at Akron Children’s Hospital, check out our current job opportunities.

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