Hacking Home Visits: Tips for Medical Interpreters

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I confess: Home visits are one of my favorite types of appointments to interpret at. Interpreting for patients in their own homes, where they are more comfortable, can be a lot different from a doctor’s office. Patients may joke more, or share more raw emotions—you get to see, more so in this environment, the person the patient really is.  

Nervous about interpreting at your first home visit? Here are a few tips to help you ease into an unfamiliar environment: 

Safety First

Home visits require a bit more legwork beforehand than your typical clinic visit. Safety should be one of your top priorities. Two important questions to ask prior to a home visit are:  

  1. Will I need Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)? For a patient with active tuberculosis, for example, the interpreter should wear an N95 respirator (or PAPR or SCBA).  

  2. Where is a good place for the healthcare provider and me to meet? I highly recommend meeting at a place that’s not the patient’s home for the interpreter’s safety. Chances are there is nothing to worry about and this isn’t going to turn into a horror movie, but you never know who could be visiting the patient, and what could happen if you arrive earlier than the provider and go in alone. I suggest meeting at a public place close to the patient’s home, such as a gas station or store, then following the provider to the patient’s home. Make sure to have your company’s logo visible somewhere on your vehicle so the provider can locate you easily.   

Keep a Poker Face

Have you ever walked into someone’s house and thought, “Oh, my goodness!” I’m sure we all have.  

I prefer a less-is-more style, so seeing dozens of photos on someone’s wall and various figurines all over always makes me have to contain my inner interior designer.  I remind myself that it’s their house, not mine, and my only role is to interpret, not reorganize. If there is anything in the home that might be a health or safety hazard, the home healthcare professional will address that.  

Of course, you’ll also want to withhold any comments or reactions when you absolutely love what they’ve done with their home. Unique art work. Amazing photos. Fantastic landscaping. Gorgeous houseplants. You see none of it. Your focus is on interpreting all messages. Period. 

Remember, it’s their house, not yours, and you’re there to interpret, not reorganize or get decorating ideas. For the interpreter, it’s important to not show any reactions to the environment or draw attention to yourself. At all times, keep a poker face.   

Have you ever interpreted at a home visit? What are your tips for new interpreters?  

Posted on August 30, 2017 and filed under Newbie, Interpreter.