What to Consider when Scheduling or Hiring a Sign Language Interpreter for D/deaf Patients

Perhaps you’re new to having a D/deaf patient and scheduling an ASL/sign language interpreter, or perhaps you have been doing it awhile and just wonder how it all works.

D/deaf patients and sign langauge interpretersProvide an Onsite Contact

First, a reputable sign language interpreting firm is likely going to ask your business several questions about the services you need.  This way they can best match a ASL/sign language interpreter with your D/deaf patient to satisfy your goals.  It is best if the sign language interpreter is provided a Point of Contact (POC) at your facility. They can then check in with them upon arrival.  Also, often sign language interpreters are provided instructions that seem clear until they arrive onsite.  It is vital that the POC be reachable for anything that the sign language interpreter may need.

Arrival Time: Schedule 15 minutes early

Check-in may or may not be in the place where the ASL/sign language interpreting services are rendered.  So it is also important to consider what time the ASL/sign language interpreter should arrive at your facility.  They may need additional time to check-in before the appointment.

For a physician’s office, we suggest scheduling a ASL/sign language interpreter fifteen (15) minutes prior to a D/deaf patient’s appointment time.  Fifteen minutes is usually enough time for the ASL/sign language interpreter to assist the D/deaf patient with any paperwork.  This also allows the nursing staff to get the patient’s vitals before the physician is ready.  A hospital situation may be different.

Hospital settings sometimes require that contract personnel report to an office that is not where the services are rendered. If this is the case, then additional time may need to be considered. For example, a sign language interpreter may need to check in and receive a visitor badge in a basement office.  Then they must report to the 10th floor to meet the D/deaf patient and provide the ASL/sign language interpreting services.  Additional time may need to be scheduled prior to the appointment.  In this example, scheduling a sign language interpreter arrival 15 minutes early may not be enough time to follow all the requirements of the hospital.

Early Arrival Time: Paid or Unpaid?

ASL/Sign language interpreters sometimes get a “bad wrap” for running late.  This usually occurs, however, from improper scheduling or expectations not being described in depth at the time of scheduling.  Like other professional services, all the interpreter’s time “working” is paid.  As your employer cannot force you to arrive early and start working off the clock, it is not feasible to force contract labor to do so.  Since the contract sign language interpreter works with several D/deaf patients and clients each day, early arrival can be unreasonable.  In some cases, it may not feasible to have them arrive at each client’s office 15-30 minutes early to “donate their time.”

In summary, if you request a sign language interpreter to arrive at 10 am they likely will not arrive onsite to check in until 10 am.

If you would like more information on sign language interpreter practices, such as waiting in the hallway, please check out our blog on ethical considerations for sign language interpreters in medical settings.


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MT & Associates | Sign Language Interpreting Practice BBB Business Review