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Call Taker Róisín: “If everything goes smoothly, that’s a good job”

Call Taker Róisín: “If everything goes smoothly, that’s a good job”

Call Taker Róisín: “If everything goes smoothly, that’s a good job”

We often refer to our Call Takers – the reassuring voices on the end of your 111 call – as the ‘heroes you never see’. This is especially true for Róisín, a Call Taker, who, as a trainee at the time, supported the birth of a premature baby in an Auckland Costco restroom 650 kilometres from our Thorndon, Wellington clinical communications centre.

Róisín is currently studying towards their paramedicine degree and working as an Event Medic at Wellington Free. In November, they started training as a Call Taker as they see this as a “way to see how a call goes from start to finish, and to understand the information that’s gathered before an ambulance is dispatched. It’s also helping my communication and technology skills”. They also laughingly admit that being a Call Taker “saves me from sunburn”, as they’re usually a lifeguard over summer. 

A calm start

Call Takers answer an average of 640 calls a day, and they need to be trained and prepared for any emergency to be at the end of line, as every call is different.

Róisín explains that there’s a specific structure to 111 calls that starts with gathering an address first, so we know where to send the ambulance. As the caller gave the address for Costco in Auckland, Róisín wondered if perhaps someone had had a fall, or an employee was unwell. Róisín recalls that the caller didn’t seem too stressed, so it was “kind of a surprise” when the caller explained there was a 'lady in labour in the bathroom…'

Róisín remembers turning to their mentor – as a trainee Call Taker at the time, Róisín was assigned a mentor who supports, guides, and provides valuable feedback to prepare them for independent call-taking – as if to say, ‘what did they just say?’.

“We’re in the weeds now”

Róisín talked to multiple people throughout the call, from Costco staff to the dad- and mum-to-be, skilfully guiding them through various questions and instructions to work out what was happening. When Róisín was told the soon-to-be mum wanted to push, they knew the baby was coming - now.  “We’re in the weeds now”, Róisín thought. 

Asking Costco staff to time mum’s contractions, Róisín prepared to help them deliver the baby. Róisín remembers a lot of background noise followed by the news they wanted to hear – “the baby’s out”.

However, this was quickly followed by the realisation that the baby was in a sac. En caul births are really rare – it’s when a baby is born still inside an intact amniotic sac.

Róisín was able to instruct staff about how to break open the sac and thankfully the baby was breathing – they even heard the baby crying in the background. With mum and baby safe and well, Róisín stayed on the phone until the first emergency responders arrived. 

Although Róisín had answered the call in Wellington (the Thorndon 111 clinical communications centre is one of three centres across Aotearoa New Zealand, with the other two being in Christchurch and Auckland), the emergency ambulance service attending was Hato Hone St John as the service supporting Auckland communities. This is just one example of how the emergency ambulance service provides joined-up care across Aotearoa!

Reflecting on their experience

A close up on a pin shaped like a storkThis was the first baby Róisín delivered over the phone, they’ve done a maternity ward delivery during their university studies – a very different experience to this remote delivery! As Róisín explains, “there was a lot of back and forth and trying to find things! But I zoned in on it and just went step by step”.

When the call ended, Róisín remembers feeling like “that was a lot!”. They reflect that the experience was “really rewarding, especially seeing the whole thing through. Usually as Call Takers, we stay on the line until the first emergency responders arrive and don’t always know what’s happened with the patient”. 

Now that they’ve delivered their first baby over the phone, a major milestone for any Call Taker, Róisín is the proud owner of a stork pin (a pin shaped like a stork that’s presented to Call Takers who guide baby deliveries). Róisín acknowledges they were working alongside Costco staff and the dad-to-be, supporting and guiding them on the ground that day. Róisín laughingly remembers that the pin was waiting for them at the end of the call, as Supervisor - Call Taking, Lea realised what was happening and wanted to present them with it as soon as possible.

This birth story isn’t the usual. It was an incredibly busy, noisy, and public place, involving unfamiliar surroundings and people, that saw the safe arrival of a premature new life under challenging and rare circumstances.

Throughout it all, Róisín saw their role as “blending into the background”. They reflect that “if everything goes smoothly, that’s a good job”.

Join us in saying a huge ka pai and well done to Róisín for their quick thinking and composure under pressure, ensuring the safe delivery of the baby.



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