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Janice at switchboard window
Janice, who started at UHN as a switchboard operator more than 25 years ago, says the changes during her career have been “truly transformational.” (Photo: UHN)

Janice has seen it all.

"Back when I started, we were all on paper," she says of her early days as a switchboard operator. "Many moons ago, over 25 years now, we used a big black book to look up information.

"Now, everything is computerized."

Over the years, Janice has worked as a switchboard operator, locating operator, and emergency code response operator at Toronto General Hospital (TG), Toronto Western Hospital (TW) and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (PM). In the early days, she was no stranger to the now-ancient SL 1 console – a switchboard in the truest sense.

"The changes I have seen have been truly transformational," Janice says.

The latest transformation comes on Sept. 1 when Switchboard Services will become UHN CONNECT.

The name change culminates the current phase of the centralization project between TG, PM, TW, and Toronto Rehab, into a dual hub communications centre.

UHN CONNECT includes Switchboard Services, Locating Services, WebPaging Services, 5555, and alarm monitoring across all sites. During this change, all contact numbers and processes will remain the same.

the UHN CONNECT logo

"The new name is a reflection of the evolution of the key role this group plays at UHN," says Stewart Dankner, Director, Facility, Management, Planning Redevelopment and Operations (FM-PRO), which includes UHN CONNECT. "The image of them as 'switchboard operators' connecting phone calls as was the job decades ago doesn't properly capture the scope of their work.

"We feel 'UHN CONNECT' is more reflective of the vital position they hold in a multi-faceted, digital communications hub."

Janice now works in a fully digital environment, multi-tasking between telephony and paging applications, call-recording software, electronic patient records, the corporate intranet, and remote monitoring applications such as ConnexALL and Genetec.

"We really juggle a lot of tools to ensure the hospital is running efficiently, and patients and staff are safe," she says. "Most people don't really understand our role, they think we just answer the phone."

Old black and white switchboard
Toronto General Hospital’s Switchboard before 1960. (Photo: Courtesy University Health Network Archives, Toronto)

UHN CONNECT members provide a vital link between TeamUHN members, patients, families, caregivers, and the general public. When a code is called, UHN CONNECT is the first point of contact, initiating code response algorithms to ensure all responders are notified immediately.

TW, PM, and TG have been centralized into a single communication hub, with TR-University Centre serving the same role for itself, Lyndhurst Centre, Bickle Centre and Rumsey Centre. That means the one hub at TG and the other at TR-UC now remotely monitor alarms, trigger code response, and troubleshoot pager issues, across all three acute and complex care campuses and rehab sites.

 "At first it was a tad overwhelming, but we have a great team where we all support each other, so the transition has been a successful one," Janice says.

Janice does not plan to retire anytime soon, she enjoys her work too much and is "blessed to have such a great team."

"It can be stressful at times, and tensions can run high, but we know how to have fun," she says. "Each week we have a themed wardrobe day, my recent favourite was basketball day to support our NBA championship winners, the Raptors!

"While challenging, and at times draining, our work is a very rewarding."

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