Dispatch operator wins medical merit award

Posted May 21, 2010, at 10:53 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A communications supervisor with the Penobscot Regional Communications Center received one of eight awards at the Maine Emergency Medical Services 23rd annual awards ceremony Thursday.

Tracy Erickson was the only dispatch operator to receive the Emergency Medical Services Merit Award at the ceremony in the State House in Augusta. Aside from her 20 years of experience as an emergency dispatch operator, Erickson recently has undertaken the additional duties of training and quality assurance for the Penobscot County center.

Gov. John Baldacci said in a statement that “Maine EMS providers as first responders are on the front lines in implementing health system improvements.”

In 2005, a new state law mandated the creation and quality reviews of emergency medical dispatch centers to provide this service to the 38 percent of public safety answering points that previously only handled fire and law enforcement calls. It also established minimum training standards for dispatch operators, previously the only public safety professionals in the state without such a requirement.

Erickson said many of the state’s smaller dispatch centers have faced difficulties fulfilling the time-consuming requirements of quality assurance reviews since the new law has been enacted. In order to meet the requirements, Erickson was transferred from the dispatch desk to a new position with the sole focus of quality and training assurance.

Jim Ryan, executive director at the Penobscot Regional Communications Center, said Erickson’s weekly reviews of each of the center’s 28 dispatch operators have helped maintain the facility’s outstanding service record. Self-described as “a very proactive person,” Erickson typically spends 10 hours a week reviewing recordings with the rest of her time devoted to training the center’s employees and taking emergency calls when needed.

“She’s a hard worker,” said Ryan. “She’s someone you can give a task to and it’s going to get done on time, if not before.”

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