The “first” first responders answering your 9-1-1 call

One voice may answer the call, but you’re talking to Team Ottawa's first responders.

Jeovani Calderon and Geneviève Taylor are Ambulance Communications Officers with the Ottawa Paramedic Service, whose job it is to assist residents in Ottawa and surrounding areas entirely over the phone.

“We each take between 30 to 60 calls in a day and we never know what we're getting when that phone rings”, Geneviève explains. “We're the “first” first responder from when that person dials 9-1-1 to the time that they get to the hospital.”

Answering the call and coordinating the emergency response is a team effort. While one Ambulance Communications Officer speaks with the caller, another officer assigns which ambulance will be dispatched. At the same time, an additional officer relays details to paramedics and stays in touch with them throughout the call. Before paramedics arrive at the scene, callers have already received support from multiple first responders working behind the scenes.

“We're not on scene with the caller, but we are providing a form of patient care when we're on the phone with them, which is something I didn't really appreciate before I started working at the Central Ambulance Communications Centre”, Jeovani shares. “I feel like I have a bigger impact on the healthcare system by working at the Communications Centre.”

Geneviève feels similarly, “I’ve always had a passion for working with people. It’s a job where you really feel like you’re making a difference in the community.”

Learning all the different roles of an Ambulance Communications Officer is a gradual process. Each Ambulance Communications Officer starts as a Communications Officer Trainee and attends a paid-for provincial training course for certification. After provincial certification, trainees are paired with experienced mentors as part of our in-house training program and they perform tasks together until the trainee becomes independent on each individual part.

Jeovani, a mentor himself, observes, “There's such a variety of different people coming from different fields. Everybody brings something to the table.” Many specific skills are taught in the training course, but some of the most important skills for an Ambulance Communications Officer are skills found in many fields, like multi-tasking, empathy, attention to detail and of course, teamwork.

Interested in joining Team Ottawa's “first” first responders? Visit the Ottawa Paramedic Recruitment(link is external) page to learn more about becoming a Communications Officer Trainee.

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