Be Identifiable: I’m the interpreter, not a family member

I was recently one of the first people to respond to the scene of a motor vehicle accident. The car was upside down, and the occupant was still inside the vehicle. There were about 7 of us regular civilians responding the best way we could. Then the officer arrived on the scene and immediately took charge of the situation instructing the rest of us according to our abilities to help or get out of the way.

When the officer arrived he didn’t have to introduce himself or explain his role. Why? Because he was clearly identifiable by his uniform. This saved time. It created instant trust and rapport with everyone at the scene – he’s earned the uniform and knows what he’s doing. It alleviated some of the stress of the situation – finally someone was there who could actually help.

Like the officer in the scenario, health care interpreters can also benefit by wearing a uniform or other apparel that clearly identifies him or her as the interpreter.

It makes the interpreter visible and distinguishes him or her from other individuals in the encounter, like family or members of the nursing team. It is a good first step toward creating awareness of role boundaries and role differentiation. For interpreters who work collaboratively (a team of staff interpreters, for example), uniformity in apparel can serve as a way to establish trust and rapport with individuals who are working with an unfamiliar interpreter, but who have had excellent experiences with other interpreters on the team. 

Unlike police officers, health care interpreters will never be so identifiable by their uniform that they will never have to explain who they are or what their role is. Still, being identifiable presents significant benefits for interpreters and those who rely on them.

Interpreters, what are you doing to be clearly identifiable in your interpreted encounters?