Advocate Collaboration in Medical Sign Language Interpreting
In order to ensure equal access to communication as the focus, advocate collaboration in medical sign language interpreting situations. Sign language interpreters and others involved should avoid spending energy on gaining a power position. There can be negative effects of power positions medical settings.
Disclaimer: Examples are provided for reflection purposes only and may be “extreme” examples for that purpose. Examples are not real life scenarios, and any similarities to real persons or scenarios should not be inferred.
A Deaf Patient in a Doctor’s Office
The doctor and medical staff are all “hearing.”
Position 1: Sign Language Interpreter
The sign language interpreter arrives at the doctor’s office, checks in at the front desk, and visually seeks out the Deaf client. When they are not located, the interpreter sits in the corner to wait for the Deaf patient. The Deaf patient arrives, and they introduce each other and exchange pleasantries. The Deaf patient’s name is called, so the sign language interpreter proceeds with the Deaf patient and medical assistant or nurse.
The sign language interpreter interprets any information exchanged, even small talk. They then complete the Deaf patient’s vitals and the details of why the Deaf patient is seeing the Doctor. When the medical assistant or nurse leaves the patient in an exam room, the sign language interpreter reminds the Deaf patient that they will be right outside the room and available if they need interpreting services. The sign language interpreter then waits immediately outside the door, not in the direct path of medical staff doing their jobs. They are available when the Doctor or Deaf patient needs them. The Doctor performs their exam, the sign language interpreter interprets what is said, and then the Deaf patient is excused with instructions for care.
The sign language interpreter partners with all parties to ensure that the focus is on the Deaf patient and medical professional relationship. All parties have equal access to communication with minimal interference to the flow of the interactions.
Position 2: Deaf Patient
The sign language interpreter arrives at the doctor’s office, checks in at the front desk, and visually seeks out the Deaf client. When they are not located, the interpreter sits in the corner to wait for the Deaf patient. The Deaf patient arrives and seeks out the interpreter. They then introduce themselves and exchange pleasantries.
Vitals and preliminary conversations with the medical assistant or nurse are interpreted by the sign language interpreter. This causes minimal interference in the medical office. The sign language interpreter may move around the room five (5) times, but the Deaf patient is aware that in this situation the interpreter is doing the best they can to ensure access to all parties. The Deaf patient may ask the interpreter move if they cannot see the interpreter. Then the interpreter can determine an alternative option that does not interfere with medical staff. This is an example of how to advocate collaboration in medical sign language interpreting situations.
A partnership among sign language interpreters and Deaf patients or consumers makes for an easy flow of information, efficient and timely services, and allows for the comfort of all parties.
Position 3: Doctor/Medical Assistant/Nurse
If sign language interpreters and Deaf patients collaborate, the appointment will go more smoothly. This will also assist the hearing medical staff in doing their job. In fact, when done well, services are seamless and there is no difference between a hearing or Deaf patient. A doctor’s office in this position is willing to have more Deaf patients and cost becomes less of an issue when hiring sign language interpreters.
Advocate collaboration in medical sign language interpreting settings always. This ensures equal access to communication and makes for a more comfortable work environment.