Lisa Ratledge: Operations Control Manager
August 10, 2022
10 August, 2022
Meet Lisa Ratledge, an Operations Control Manager (OCM) of the Operations Control Centre (OCC). In her role, she oversees patient transfer operations from start to finish to ensure they happen safely, efficiently, and effectively.
We spoke to Lisa about her role at Ornge, the education and training she completed to support her career and discussed what happens on a typical day as an Operations Control Manager.
Vanessa Lambe: When did you start working at Ornge?
Lisa Ratledge: I started working with Ornge in July of 2007. It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years!
What is your current role with Ornge?
I’m an Operations Control Manager (OCM) in the OCC.
What made you decide to work for Ornge?
I came to Ornge as a Medical Analyst. I was a recent graduate of the Paramedic Program at Humber College, and at the time paramedic jobs were few and far between. The Medical Analyst position at Ornge provided me an opportunity to use all of the knowledge I’d gained in the Paramedic Program in a different setting.
How does your previous work experience influence your time here?
My work experience previous to Ornge was largely student employment. While little of it directly influences my work here at Ornge today, it did motivate me to enroll in the Paramedic Program and to get involved in the emergency services field in general. During my time at Acadia University I worked as a team lead for Campus Security where I oversaw a team of approximately 6-12 people at a time – my first real “supervisory” experience. The position also allowed me to get my Medical First Responder certification (a qualification in Nova Scotia) and to complete ride-outs with EHS Nova Scotia. This all contributed to my choice to pursue a career in paramedicine, which is what brought me to Ornge.
What do you love most about your job?
I have always said that the very best part of my job is working with incredible people all over the province. Prior to becoming an OCM, I worked as both a medical call-taker (“Medical Analyst” at the time, now classified as Communications Officer Medical (CO-Medical) and as a Communications Officer Flight (CO-Flight). This afforded me the opportunity to work closely with both paramedics and pilots across the entire province, as well as the many Ambulance Communications Officers at the various Central Ambulance Communication Centres. No matter how crazy the shift was, we always worked together to find solutions to what sometimes seemed like impossible situations. Now, as an OCM, I don’t get to interact with crews in the same way I used to. That being said, I get to work closely with the OCC staff to collaboratively best serve the people of Ontario and find solutions to the many situations that present themselves on a daily basis. This collaborative environment has been and continues to be my favourite part of the job.
What do you find most challenging about your job?
I think the most challenging part of my job is when there are emergent calls we aren’t able to respond to. This could be due to weather or because the number of pending emergent calls we have exceeds the number of available crews. This was true both as a flight planner and now as an OCM. It is difficult to look at a screen full of patients in emergency situations who we can’t get to. It’s not unheard of for hospital or nursing station staff to tell our Communications Officers or myself that a patient could die and that it would be our fault. While I recognize it isn’t our fault, it’s difficult to hear and to deal with.
Who inspires you here in the workplace?
Many of the paramedics we work with are very inspiring. Their professionalism and passion for patient care and advocacy really impresses me.
What happens on a typical day for you?
My day typically starts around 0515/1715 when I get a handover from the outgoing OCM. We go over any events of note from the previous shift, ongoing calls, pending calls, and current operational status (crews who are out on calls, any bases that are out of service, etc.) The beginning of my day typically involves orienting myself to both the list of pending calls and our crew serviceability for the shift. I start working collaboratively with the CO-Flight to make decisions on which dayshift crews will be servicing which calls. I’m also logging out any crews who had late calls and incurred shift overrun. On weekdays I attend an Operations meeting and brief the various organizational departments on what’s going on in the OCC. The majority of my day involves overseeing everything that is going on across the province. I keep an eye on pending calls and on calls that are ongoing and deal with any issues that may arise. I also work closely with the on-duty Transport Medicine Physician (TMP) to answer any questions they may have about our options for servicing pending calls. I also interact with a variety of stakeholders and members of the general public when they have inquiries about Ornge and our service delivery. Near the end of shift I’m typically involved in decisions regarding potential duty outs, although the decision largely falls to the TMP – if they say a call is approved for a duty out, then the crew is assigned the call. At the end of the shift I prepare to handover to the incoming OCM and then brief them when they arrive.
Tell me a bit more about the team of people you work with.
My team in the OCC is made up of Communications Officers (CO); CO-Flight handle flight planning and CO-Medical are medical call takers. The majority of our CO-Flight have some form of aviation background (pilots license, previous airline dispatch experience, etc.), and the majority of our CO-Medical have some form of medical background (largely paramedic). Our CO-Flight work one of four desks: Rotor Wing Planner, Fixed Wing Planner, SA Planner, or SWOP (overflow planner). The COs work closely to collaboratively book and dispatch calls, update stakeholders, and look after the needs of Ornge paramedics and pilots. The Ornge TMPs also work closely with OCC staff.
Can you tell me about a memorable day you had here and why it stuck with you?
There’s so many. I suppose one that stands out is the day many years ago when I rode-out with the 7790 crew (out of Thunder Bay). I had taken it upon myself to go up there to visit friends/colleagues and arranged to fly with the crew for the day. Getting to experience that side of the operation was amazing. It started out with a group breakfast at the base, and then saw us respond to a call from Attawapiskat to Moose Factory. I remember it was an obstetrics call, and Patrick Thompson asked if I’d ever delivered a baby before (which I hadn’t gotten the chance to do during my paramedic field-placement). I had a feeling that I’d be getting my hands dirty if we ended up delivering enroute! Thankfully, I have still never been involved in the birth of a baby! It was an amazing day, and an opportunity I am grateful for. Beyond that day, there are countless examples of calls I was involved in that required a great deal of coordination and collaboration with our medics, pilots, hospital staff, and local EMS dispatchers. When those calls went off without a hitch it was an incredibly good feeling.
What do you do on your off time to create work/life balance?
When I’m working, that’s all I do for my 4 shifts on duty. Commute, work, commute, eat, sleep, repeat. So, when I’m not at work I try and unwind and relax as much as possible. I try to spend a lot of time outside. In the spring/summer/fall that usually involves camping, either with just my dog or with friends as well. Admittedly I don’t love winter and spend more time indoors than I should. I also try and spend a lot of time with my sister and my nephews. I occasionally crochet, sometimes colour, and I’m working on redecorating my house.
If you weren't an Operations Control Manager, what would you be?
Tough question. I really miss being a flight planner. I miss working closely with our crews to achieve our goals. It was a very rewarding position. Outside of work at Ornge, I’ve considered a few things – most of which would require going back to school. Psychology fascinates me and I think working as a Clinical Psychologist would be great. I’ve also floated the idea of being a Veterinarian or Veterinarian Technician. To be honest though, I can’t see myself being anywhere other than Ornge.
At Ornge, our staff work every day around the clock to ensure the patients of Ontario receive the best care available. Learn more about the people behind #teamornge.