Responsibilities of a Staff Medical Sign Language Interpreter

Medical ASL sign language interpreters are no different than any other full-time position.  It’s important that the abundance of responsibilities not be too great as these staff positions become more prevalent.  Ethics can often be skewed for convenience.  Let’s consider a few challenges we see in the Saint Louis Metro area of staff medical sign language interpreters.ASL staff Medical sign language interpreter


  1. One challenge is that sometimes the full-time staff medical sign language interpreter has too many duties. Many times, those “other” duties can get in the way of time and energy.  Their efforts toward the actual ASL sign language interpretation are inhibited. This means that D/deaf patients or D/deaf staff are not necessarily getting the full benefit of the sign language interpreting services.
  1. Another challenge is the desire for the medical sign language interpreter to cross ethical lines with D/deaf patients, D/deaf patient’s family members, and sometimes medical staff. It is vital for the sign language interpreter to remain the expert in the ASL sign language interpreting process, boundaries, ethics, and laws.  The staff sign language interpreter should advocate that those lines not be crossed.  They should also educate medical staff on why they are important.
  1. Sign language interpreters are being asked to provide services that would otherwise be performed by a medical technician or nursing staff.  Refer for out blog for more information. This includes bathing or assisting a client with going to the restroom. It is not uncommon that the D/deaf or Hard of Hearing members know many of the sign language interpreters in the community.  A situation may arise, for example, when the sign language interpreter provides services at the D/deaf or Hard of Hearing client’s church.  Because of this connection they may be asked to provide a bath to that same client.  This could be inappropriate to either party.  Therefore, neither should be forced into this situation.  When a sign language interpreter takes over, because they are required to by their “job,” they take away the voice of a D/deaf-HOH patient.  Their equal access is removed.

Keep the Boundaries Clear

The purpose of a staff medical ASL sign language interpreter is to save costs and assist with scheduling of appropriate sign language interpreters.  They also provide expert advice on ASL/sign language interpreting and culturally mediate for D/eaf, Hard of Hearing and hearing consumers.   It is important for sign language interpreters to keep these lines very clear in order to protect the liability of the medical facility and the comfort of patients.

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MT & Associates | Sign Language Interpreting Practice BBB Business Review