Sunday, January 19, 2020

PBX Duties

When the two hospitals in town decided to merge in the early 1970's some new things were added. The ambulance service was formed with regular EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) with the switchboard operators taking calls for the ambulance and dispatching them to the location  where they were needed.

I went to work at Hutchinson Hospital South in June of 1972. It was sort of a part time job with six days of six hour shifts. Lee worked shifts at the airport and somehow we worked it out. The boys were thirteen and almost eleven and there were very few times that they were home alone for more than an hour or two. (Today we would be locked up for child neglect.)

It was necessary to be calm and get the information from a caller who was under some stress! Then we would hand the information to one of the young men and wait for them to call in on a two way radio with the condition of the patient. We were still answering the regular hospital calls that came in on the PBX (private branch exchange.) I had worked at the independent  United Telephone Company in Russell, KS. for almost two years in the early 1950's. (Gosh, I'm old!) So I knew the basics of a switchboard.

One of the first calls I remember is one with the term,  "Patient is SOB." Now, that only meant one thing to me but I wrote down the initials. It sure made me wonder about that guy or gal they were bringing in.

One other term was, "Eyes are pearl." Are they white, grey, iridescent?

I later found out that SOB was the abbreviation for Short of Breath and PERL meant pupils equally reactive to light.

I learned a lot on that job and I really liked it. Later, at the new hospital, we had a tape recorder to record the calls so we could check for any errors. The operators at 911 at the Law Enforcement Center now handle all those calls.


  1. How interesting your job must have been. I grew up in a family of EMT's, (Dad and both brothers's), and our dinner table conversation was peppered with medical things. I heard all about babies being delivered and all kinds of fun information. As a result, I can eat through almost anything. :-) I also worked in a nursing home all through high school and in a hospital ER for several years.
    Fun times. I'm sure you have lots of stories to tell.

    1. EMTs are a special breed! They have such empathy and save a lot of lives. Those young guys I worked with were great. One has retired as a general in the air force!

  2. I was an EMT for many year. Yes I have lots of stories, some of those calls never leave you...the bad ones anyways.
    What fun for you but working six days a week and having young boys you had your hands full! 13 is plenty old to stay home with an 11 year old. I was in charge of my baby brother who was 6 and my new other baby brother when I was 9 years old.

    1. I think we gave our kids more responsibilities than we would today - maybe?

  3. Interesting story! I enjoy your blog posts.💖