Behind the Scenes: LHSC'S Switchboard

Fall 2012

When you think of a switchboard, are you transported to the past? Operators wearing oversized headsets, seated in a line across a small room, facing a giant puzzle-like board as they hurriedly navigate their way through a maze of phone plugs and jacks to physically connect the circuit?

If so, you’re certainly not alone; but in reality, the modern switchboard offers a markedly different picture. Today the majority of switchboards, including LHSC’s, most closely resemble that of a call centre – with operators facing computers in personal workstations.

At LHSC, switchboard operators are the first impression of the organization. They answer calls for LHSC’s three hospital sites from one central location, taking up to 700 calls an hour during the busiest times of the day.

To provide a sense of the scope of the telephone system they manage, and just how busy they are, LHSC’s telecommunications network is comparable in size to that of the entire city of Strathroy. Managing the volume of incoming calls alone is no simple feat, but the hospital’s switchboard operators do much more than that.

In addition to connecting each incoming caller with their destination – whether it is a particular clinic or physician’s office, a staff member or an inpatient room – switchboard operators are responsible for a number of critical tasks. Their most important role is serving as the hospital’s internal 911 operators for emergencies that happen within the walls of the hospital.

Internal emergency calls come in on a separate phone line from the main switchboard and must be answered on the first ring. There are 120 different variations of emergency situations that can be reported. It is up to the switchboard operator to gather the right information and dispatch the appropriate code response system – all within the standard of just 27 seconds.

Operators also manage two other important internal functions: the hospital’s paging and on-call systems, both of which are crucial to the hospital’s ability to provide seamless service and respond to the urgent needs of physicians,  staff and patients.

Want to learn more about what it’s like to be an operator?

Helen Swift  takes you inside her 23 years of experience as a switchboard operator at LHSC.

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Switchboard Operator Lori Carmichael answers a call in LHSC's switchboard office
A view of the switchboard space
A view of the switchboard system
Switchboard Operator Helen Swift