Interpreting in Medical Settings:
Synthesis of Effective Practices Focus Group Discussions
Developed by Marty Taylor, Ph.D., Project Consultant
Background | Data Collection/Process | (1) Requisite Skills | (2) Advocacy/Support | (3) Cultural Differences | (4) Diversity | (5) Deaf Interpreters | (6) Sight Translations | (7) Patient Charts | (8) Conveying Meaning | (9) Crossover to Legal | (10) Job Description | Summary/Implications | Appendices | Download PDF of Report | Download PDF of Focus Group Survey Results
Crossover to Legal
Of great importance is the ability to recognize when medical interpreting situations could become legal situations such as rape or assault cases, a minor with unusual injuries, or patients talking about malpractice. Deaf consumers in emergency may be treated for medical problems and at the same time want to make a police report related to their injuries. One participant reported that “walking into something and not knowing what you were walking into was very alarming.” It is important to know one’s limits and to have strategies for transitioning the work to legal interpreters.
During these situations boundaries and roles must be maintained with utmost care. Some hospitals have instituted policies where interpreters who are hired to interpret in the medical setting only interpret for the health care professionals and consumers. If police are present, the police are required to secure the services of different interpreters for their own purposes. Sometimes this occurs and sometimes it doesn’t. Police sometimes listened to the conversation interpreted between the health care professionals and deaf consumers without securing their own interpreters. If the deaf consumer is released and goes to the police station, the boundaries are clearer and interpreters from the medical setting are not required to go to the police station.
Other gray areas were interpreting for personnel from the Department of Child and Family Services (DCSF) and interpreting about Power of Attorney because both involve serious legal implications. When personnel from DCSF appear some interpreters felt comfortable advocating on behalf of deaf consumers instructing them that they didn’t have to answer the questions and provided them with information and resources. Also interpreters, especially staff interpreters, felt comfortable not interpreting for DCSF personnel. In the latter case, interpreting about Power of Attorney, most interpreters, depending on who was the deaf consumer, felt comfortable doing this if health care professionals were explaining what this entailed. A few interpreters stated that they did not interpret for this kind of interaction.