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“I am the switchboard and telecommunications manager and I have worked for the Trust for 18 years.

“I have worked in public facing roles for most of my working life - hotel and bar work when my boys were young, guesthouse proprietor, property administrator for the local paper, waitress in a café. When the owners sold the café I felt I needed a new challenge.

“I started as a switchboard operator in January 2000 where I was employed to work 12 hours as and when needed. As I had a family to nurture, I didn’t want to work more than the hours I had applied for at the time. In October 2000 the position of switchboard supervisor became available but didn’t think I had enough experience at the time. One of the experienced stalwart operators asked me if I was going to apply for the post and I said no. Her kind reply was you wouldn’t get it anyway because you haven’t got enough experience!

“I like a challenge so decided that evening, after talking it through with my husband, to apply for the position. I didn’t mention it to anyone because the whispers were that someone else was likely to get it – meaning I didn’t stand a chance. I went for my interview on one of my days off and at the close of day was given the good news that I was successful in my interview and I would be given a new full time contract. I was absolutely blown away that I had been given the chance to lead a great team and some of those team members are still working in switchboard, which speaks volumes for the rewarding work we do.

“When I first started as a switchboard operator I had been looking for a new challenge in a different direction but you don’t realise until you start working for the NHS how important your work is. As a small cog in a big wheel you are working towards making a difference to people’s health and wellbeing. It is very worthwhile and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else as rewarding.

“I like everything about my job. It can involve long hours, multi-tasking, prioritising workload, wearing many hats - I always work hands-on and wouldn’t expect staff to do anything I can’t do myself. My work can be very frustrating at times, yet I feel it’s one of the most rewarding careers anyone could be part of. Over the years, working in the NHS has helped me to develop personally as well as professionally. I enjoy talking to people and helping people at all levels whether face-to-face or over the telephone, and I am always happy in my work.

“When I first started in 2000 the telephone system was an ISDX system and we worked on a flatbed with no directory. We had to make an A-Z book of staff and departments. Now we have a full electronic directory with a computerised telephone system that is now automated. When the new telephone system came into practice one of the consequences was that the operators roles were reduced.

“I have more responsibility which keeps me on my toes, working across the Trust sites with a variety of tasks that I enjoy. My team are always on hand to help – anything from finding where patients are located, booking taxis, sourcing hotels for patients’ relatives that live out of the area. Our switchboard operators have even been known to transport a patient in a wheelchair during their lunch break because there wasn't a porter! They listen to problems and complaints, they laugh and they cry with patients but are always professional and their commitment and work ethic of caring about what they do is first class. We have taken calls from toddlers that have dialled a random number and got through to us, if the parent took over the call we knew everything is safe, but if the child puts the phone down we take the number before this happens and ring back to make sure all is well.

“I think attitudes have changed over the years because of the speed that life takes us now, callers seem to be in a hurry and can be a little impatient at times. I feel very humble to have such great support and understanding from my family, also the support of my teams and work colleagues across sites over the years.”

29 May 2018

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