Laura Downing

Story Vault

"In the 11 years I have been a dispatcher I often get the ever popular “What is the worst call you have ever handled?” question followed up by the, “It must be so stressful” comment. Well yes. But those calls are the ones we can and do train for. It’s not the dramatic calls which I’ve had more of than I need, or the happy ending calls that we don’t get enough of that effect the way I handle things. That’s just the stuff to expect. There is plenty of training and SOPs to handle those calls. But they are not the ones that have made me question whether I am good enough for this job. They are not the ones I am the most proud of nor are they the ones that impact the way I do my job the most.

For me “that call” will always be the quiet elderly lady who lost her husband one night. It was early in my career and being more of a wallflower than a social butterfly one of the hardest things for me to learn was how to talk with people, how to comfort without being able to lay a hand on their shoulder or show them a sympathetic smile. This one call from an upset and tired woman who had been married to this same man for decades was watching him die before her eyes. Reading the protocol I tried to get her to reassure him. She asked me in her very tired voice “How do you reassure someone who knows they are dying?”This one simple call, more than any others, had the greatest impact on my career. I will never forget the woman who really made it sink in that the callers are human and often need something more than just an ambulance. Now that I provide training and QA for my EMDs I try to make sure they understand that yes, we have a protocol to follow but how we deliver it makes the biggest impact."

  • Laura Downing,

Sagadahoc County Communications