By Nafisa Kennedy
One question I am often asked as the Director of Option Line is, “What training does your staff receive?” That can be a lengthy answer since our consultants must be ready at every moment to help with a multitude of concerns, often with a life hanging in the balance.
The process is intensive, and it can take up to a month for an Option Line consultant to be considered fully trained.
What is Option Line?
Option Line allows a woman, no matter where she is, to be connected with her local pregnancy help organization, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
As Heartbeat International’s 24/7 bi-lingual pregnancy help contact center, Option Line connects clients with more than 3,000 affiliated pregnancy help organizations worldwide.
Millions of people access OptionLine.org each year for pregnancy help. There they can find vital information about all their choices, chat with a trained consultant, or reach out via phone, text or email to gather the answers they need.
In these post-Roe v. Wade days, abortion proponents often attack pregnancy help, whether physically or verbally, the latter typically with claims that falsely denigrate the efforts and validity of organizations that help women choose life for their unborn children.
As a project of Heartbeat International, the world’s largest network of pregnancy help, Option Line holds its Commitment of Care and Competence, a pregnancy help industry standard, along with contact center industry standards at the forefront, and works tirelessly to ensure that our consultants provide professional, compassionate support and service while connecting women in need with dedicated, professional pregnancy help organizations.
Option Line recently marked 20 years as a crucial, life-saving resource. We have grown tremendously in that time, both in our impact and in efficiency at quickly helping contacts find the support they need.
We initially served around 3,000 callers per month, and have grown to make over 34,000 monthly connects for pregnancy help through our hotline and website.
Always mindful of the needs and preferences of the women who reach out to us, we have increased our channels of communication over the years so that we can always meet her right where she is.
In 2006, we piloted our online chat service, in 2009 we started serving contacts via text message. And in 2019 and 2020, we expanded our website to include effective self-service options (including our online pregnancy quiz) to foster even more connections on the hotline. In 2022, those tools were utilized more than 1.4 MILLION times.
Each day, more than 1,100 people connect with Option Line for pregnancy help via phone, chat, email, text, and online center locator, resulting in more than 400,000 opportunities to provide life-affirming pregnancy help last year alone.
Option Line serves as a bridge to more than 3,000 pregnancy help organizations worldwide, connecting someone to pregnancy help every 76 seconds. This can mean the difference between life and death when a pregnancy hangs in the balance.
More than 5 million have contacted Option Line since its opening in 2003.
So, with so many connections and the help and welfare of so many human beings on the line, how do we equip our consultants?
Here are the basics of our process.
Step One: Complete the initial onboarding course
Consultants complete 24 hours of study-written material, video training, and 5 hours observing seasoned hotline consultants. They take 13 written assessments, with a 90% score required to pass. Then they practice through role playing with senior hotline consultants; a passing score on the final exam and test call series are required to move on to step two.
Step Two: Answer hotline calls
The first 40 hours our consultants are on the hotline they are coached. A supervisor or peer coach provides one-on-one support during their hotline shifts, and additional coaching hours may be provided until both the trainee and Option Line leaders are confident in the trainee’s ability to serve clients.
Step Three: Ongoing education
Option Line staff are required to complete ongoing education on a monthly basis. Topics may include new or updated information (such as changes in abortion regulations) as well as refreshers on information learned during onboarding. Additionally, Option Line staff members voluntarily participate in bimonthly peer learning opportunities.
Step Four: Quality assurance
Option Line regularly evaluates each team member for adherence to our quality standards.
Quality measures include: Adherence to protocol; Empathy; Successful connection to pregnancy help organizations; and Complete contact logs.
On the rare occasion when a team member falls below the standard on any of these measures, developmental plans are instituted which provide one-on-one education and role-play opportunities to the struggling team member.
We welcome feedback regarding test calls from the pregnancy help movement that help us do our best and ensure our quality standards are achieved.
Our consultants have been available nonstop since 2003. That is more than 175,330 hours.
Among our current team are several tenured consultants who each have more than a decade of experience in the pregnancy help movement.
Over the last 20 years, more than 140 consultants of vast and varying backgrounds have been trained to answer calls and inquiries for help to Option Line.
Among those have been women who have earned psychology degrees, held positions of leadership within their local pregnancy help organization, previously worked as a nurse, worked as a licensed social worker for their day job – ministering part time with Option Line because of their heart for the movement – held positions of leadership in the corporate world, taught kindergarten, taught college-level chemistry, were missionaries, became certified doulas, served on the Option Line while pursuing higher education – including law school and other graduate level programs – were published authors, were raising their own children, and so much more.
Many of our team members experienced their own unexpected pregnancy before joining Option Line, giving them unique insight and motivation for helping our contacts.
Whether their pregnancy ended with a birth or an abortion, all of them agree that pregnancy help would have made a world of difference in their hour of need – a difference we, at Option Line, are committed to making every hour, every day.
Editor’s note: Nafisa Kennedy is the director of Option Line. Heartbeat International manages Option Line and Pregnancy Help News where this appeared. Reposted with permission.