Operator answering the phone

On the Line
Story 117

By Kirsten Cutler

When he’s on the clock for his evening shift, phone operator James Stoddard answers every call to the main line at Adventist Health Castle, the hospital serving Kailua, Hawaii, and its surrounding areas. In the moment, he doesn’t usually know the impact of his connections – because when gratitude comes back, it’s usually a surprise.

“The next thing I know, a week or three weeks down the road, there's a knock at our office or a call from somebody,” he says.  “Sometimes I've gotten thank-you cards or a little thank-you gift from people that I've helped over the phone.”

 Over the past 16 years, James has amassed knowledge about service at the hospital to handle calls with proficiency and patience. He has also learned which relationships matter most in his line of work. 

“There are two departments that mean a lot to me and that I work closely with,” he explains. “I'm the first person that gets the phone call, registration are the first people that see the patients and people that come into the hospital, and security are the ones dealing with situations over the radio.”

“I always say change is good and change is growth.”
James at switchboard

James carefully tends and shares his knowledge with those who need it, including new hires in their training to become operators.

“You have to really learn how to multitask,” he says. “Overhead procedures, notifying security, our nursing supervisor, calling certain departments [including] lab, pharmacy, radiology, cardio.”

The list of procedures James learns, practices, and teaches includes fire alarms, other emergency codes, and now – pandemic response. During the height of alarm caused by COVID-19, his work was transformed. “Almost every single phone call I received was strictly COVID-related,” he recalls. “It started to slow down just around summertime of last year. But now every time they come up with a booster shot ... It's like COVID starting all over again.” 

Like everything else, he has taken it in stride. “I always say change is good and change is growth,” he says.

James answered the call to work for the hospital just as his mom did over 37 years ago. A passion on the side has become a pursuit for James – baking celebratory cakes and cupcakes. It started with his own family, and then his work family became part of the test kitchen.

“My things are more whimsical,” James says with a laugh. “They're more fun. I’m not a professional. I don't do things with fondant and stuff like that, because that's too much workPlus, my buttercream tastes better than fondant.”

James’ culinary success has extended beyond home, hospital, and even outside Hawaii – but his favorite clients remain his coworkers and colleagues. “In my future, I will always see myself at Castle,” he says. “That's home."