Consistency Is Key When Interpreters Work with Medical Providers

Interpreters frequently express struggles with trying to get healthcare providers to use their services and to work well with them. Many times the struggles are expressed only from the point of view of the interpreter. Very infrequently, is the perspective of the healthcare provider considered. This needs to change if interpreters hope to make any advances in working with healthcare providers.

Interpreters and translators need to start by understanding the healthcare marketplace as a whole, not just in relation to language access. I like to remind interpreters that language services are number 357 on the list of priorities healthcare faces day in and day out. Healthcare providers don't have time to focus on the "how to" of language services. Providers just want an interpreter to be present when they're needed.  So what can interpreters do to educate providers on language services?

Be consistent.

Here are some simple steps that can help you "train" your healthcare clients.  Remember, the key is consistency.

1. Establish a clear dress code.

2. Answer the phone in a consistent manner, which includes answering the phone every time it rings.

3. When the caller requests an interpreter, collect the necessary information in the same order every time.

4. Check in with the front desk first.  Then greet the patient.

5. Conduct the pre-session with the provider and patient using consistent scripting.

6. Position yourself in similar areas in the encounters. Don't make people guess where you're going to stand next.

7.  DO NOT leave the encounter until it's complete. This means staying through scheduling any future appointments.

8. Say good-bye to the patient.

9. Collect any information you need to verify your work.

10. Say good-bye to the provider and staff.

Repeat theses steps for each encounter. It might be necessary to adjust the order of the events to meet the needs of the immediate encounter, but the core elements should remain the same.

This simple process will make your interpreting services predictable.  It will garner respect and credibility for your work.  The outcome will be greater efficiency for the healthcare team.  You will move the attitude of language services from that of "I have to work with an interpreter" toward an attitude of "I want to work with an interpreter."