As the interpreting market diversifies, I get questions from people every day.
First of all, you can screen clients before making a commitment. For example, the ATA doesn’t accredit companies. It certifies translators, not interpreters. Advertising claims using the ATA name inaccurately are meant to mislead people. Be careful. Check www.paymentpractices.net, and check the Blue Board on www.proz.com to see what people say about their experience working with a company.
You should also ask questions before the appointment. I use the following worksheets for interpreting and translation projects. They are based on the ASTM Standards for Interpreting and Translation. I developed them to avoid a lot of the problems listed below, and others I am not listing.
I have been asked to do some remarkably unusual things at interpreting assignments. Here are some examples of decisions I have actually had to make. We usually don’t know about them until they happen.
Problem: Interpret for someone in a waiting room, before going in to the doctor’s office, so the patient could sign a HIPAA consent form for another person to be present at his appointments. Should I do this?
Solution: You have two choices. Interpret or don’t. If you don’t, you create a scene. So, interpret. Give a spectacularly faithful, accurate, impartial, complete rendition. You’ll see that the person you interpret for is as surprised as you are about the interaction and is capable of making a reasonable decision.
Problem: Provide your own Errors and Omissions insurance, or else the company will discount a few dollars from your fee.
Solution: Figure out whether after that discount it is still worth working for them, and if you work for them enough that it is cheaper for you to buy your own insurance. In other words, do the math and make a smart business decision. I said yes to this one.
Problem: The agency essentially wants you to turn in a medical report after the appointment. You are supposed to fill out a report with information about whether the patient can go back to work, what kind of work, what kind of injuries, treatment, etc.
Solution: This creates a problem for you as an interpreter. Focusing on gathering this information will distract you from your job as an interpreter. Job One is interpreting. That is actually your only job. And there is HIPAA, besides the fact that you are not qualified to submit a medical report. I always filled this kind of blank this way: “This information is covered by HIPAA and is part of the medical record. The interpreter is not qualified to submit this report.”
Problem: You were scheduled until 3 pm, and the appointment looks like it will go until 4. However, you have another appointment scheduled right after this one.
Solution: Right around 2:30, or whenever you notice this is going to be going longer than your scheduled time, you raise the flag: “The interpreter would like to point out that the scheduled time for this appointment is only until 3 pm, and the interpreter has to leave promptly to cover another appointment at that time.” You sure don’t wait until 3, when they are all counting on you to be flexible, to raise this issue! However, since this happens often in the medical field, it’s always good to schedule a half hour of pad into your schedule.
Problem: You were scheduled from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., but the appointment ends at 12:30 p.m. The client doesn’t want to pay for what he didn’t use. However, you turned down other appointments so you could be there until 4 pm…
Solution: In your reservations system, make sure it’s clear that you bill for “time reserved” as your minimum time. Make sure that is in writing in the confirmation of the event you receive, or you will have problems. People understand that we can’t commit to what others can’t commit to. Insurance companies charge high rates to high risk clients and low rates to low risk clients. Therefore, clients with a high rate of “I will schedule you for six hours and pay you for two” could be charged a higher rate under that metric. It’s called the cost of availability, and it can be easily explained.
It all comes down to this: Use your best judgment. Do what makes sense to you. Use common sense, within the boundaries of the National Code of Ethics for Interpreters in Health Care, published by the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care. This is the Oregon Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.
Click here for the NCIHC Code of Ethics.
Click here for the NCIHC Standars of Practice.
Click here for the American Translators Association code of Ethics and Professional Practice
Click here for the Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility