Healthcare Heroes: Operator Services
May 20, 2020 Katie Rosenblum
With all the uncertainty around COVID-19 (coronavirus), people undoubtedly have many questions. As a result, the Cedars-Sinai Operator Services team has been extremely busy.
This team, also known as hospital operators, is responsible for fielding more than a million incoming calls to the hospital each year. Similar to 1950s-style switchboard operators, these operators help connect callers to their intended destination 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"Every person who calls me, I feel like is my family too. They're part of Cedars-Sinai—this is my Cedars-Sinai family."
These days, calls have increased from the community seeking information about COVID-19.
"I usually take over 10,000 a month, but it has almost doubled," says operator Debra Dumas.
Questions about testing, symptoms and other concerns have become part of the new normal for the operators.
"At the beginning it was hectic," says operator Debbie Hernandez. "About 60% of calls were COVID-19 questions."
While calls are not always very long, the operators are a vital resource and an important part of patient care at Cedars-Sinai. They are also often the first point of contact for family members and loved ones.
"We get a number of calls from family members who are trying to communicate with their loved ones. They're not able to see them and they're not able to come in," says Debra. "Every person who calls me, I feel like is my family too. They're part of Cedars-Sinai—this is my Cedars-Sinai family."
In addition to directing calls, this team is responsible for managing the hospital's rapid-response code calls. These are overhead announcements made throughout the hospital in the event of a stroke or other medical emergencies requiring special attention.
This important function requires expedience and precision. If operators don't read the proper location correctly or respond too slowly, it could lead to very significant issues for the patient.