Operators managing callers’ sense of urgency in calls to the medical emergency number

Isabella Paoletti


Communication in emergency calls is often agitated and callers almost always speak with a sense of urgency. Call operators often have to struggle in order to get the callers’ cooperation. The questioning sequence is often perceived by callers as inappropriate and a way of delaying assistance, frequently producing annoyance and anger in the caller. Interrupted calls are not uncommon in communications with the call centre, nor are cursing, rudeness and face attacks. The focus of previous studies on emotional work in emergency calls has mainly been devoted to communication problems and the consequences these had on the provision of assistance. This paper aims to focus specifically on how operators manage callers’ anxiety and sense of urgency and the emotions tied to this, such as anger. Transcripts of actual emergency calls are examined through a detailed discourse analysis in order to show operators’ interactional work in maintaining emotional contact with callers. The ability of the operators to control their own emotions and manage those of the caller is an important professional skills in this job. Describing how emotional contact with callers is maintained in actual calls can be useful for training and in-service courses.

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