Interpreting Agencies are the contracting agency responsible for multiple individuals in one setting, specifically a contract they sign and promise to execute with individual businesses. In this case, the target focus is hospitals. There is a outrage going on on Facebook currently about interpreters double-charging businesses for services that they are booked for over a 2 hour period.
“An interpreter is contracted to work an assignment at a hospital. Contract specifies a 2-hr. minimum. The Deaf Patient (A) comes in, is seen, and is done with the visit in about 30 minutes (let’s assume it’s follow-up). The interpreter is about to leave when a second Deaf Patient (B) walks in to the ER for a health issue. The hospital asks the interpreter to help with patient B. What should happen?” Is the question being asked.
Several people have targeted the idea that interpreting agencies are the ones that are saying that their interpreters must leave. Is this wholly true? Some interpreters are saying that is not true for their agency nor is it true in their state. However the question still lies, what is the answer to this question? Obviously it depends on the person’s perspective whether it’s an agency, interpreter, or consumer.
The interpreter works for the interpreting agency (this is only if the interpreting agency is responsible for this specific assignment) however if they’re being asked to violate code of ethics that’s when the interpreter needs to think for themselves. Or should they? That is where some interpreters may argue that they aren’t going to bite the hand that feeds them. Looking at the contract itself, the contract generally is contracted between the agency and the hospital not the interpreter and the patient however without the patient, there would be no need. Without the interpreter, there would be no service provided.
The contract is for 2 hours (minimum) and there was a 30 minute appointment completed. The patient has gone home (or in this case, stepped out of the hospital) so there is still 1 1/2 hours that the hospital paid for. What happened next and why is this the case? Are interpreting agencies being clear on policies at their agency with both the hospital and the interpreter?
Another way to look at this is: there have been times where hospitals have expected a single interpreter to interpret for two patients at the same time. Now, anybody that understands the need for quality would realize that this could hinder quality in providing services. The minute an interpreter accepts that request from a hospital is the minute they are putting their service quality on the line. This isn’t to say that the interpreter can’t do it, it’s to say that isn’t right because of the possibility of delay in services provided by the doctor.
Who would be responsible to communicate those rules with the hospital? The interpreting agency would be, not the interpreter. The interpreter is being paid to show up and do their job. The agency dictates how they do their job and what is acceptable and what is not. A good interpreting agency would not ask an interpreter to exceed their capabilities to complete a job. A good interpreter would know when to say no.
It falls on the interpreting agency to: provide a qualified (and if state requires, certified) interpreter for the situation, ensure that the interpreter follows code of ethics, take care of any issues interpreter has, take care of educating the business about proper practices in terms of interpreters, and be responsible for monetary exchanges.
It falls on the interpreter to: follow code of ethics, refuse jobs they are not qualified for, report back to interpreting agency about issues they may be facing, request for relief if needed, and practice good judgment on the job, and do their job to the best of their capabilities.
It falls on the hospital/business to: learn as much as they can about the proper interpreting practices, ask questions if they are not sure, pay in a timely manner.
It falls on the individual receiving services to: report any issues to the hospital or business about interpreting issues, practice their right to refuse the interpreter if they don’t meet their needs, and to maximize use of the time provided.
(Lists above are not all inclusive.)
Obviously, expectations vary based on state however when something comes to question and the interpreter defends their action, ask them who made the decision: them, or the interpreting agency they work for. In the end, don’t always blame the interpreter for their shortcomings. Remember that it takes all four parties to ensure that a contract is executed properly. Business ethics along with interpreting ethics are at play here in this situation, remember the consumer is always right. When asking questions such as “should the interpreter leave or stay when their initial appointment leaves and another shows up unannounced.” it’s important to remember that it takes everybody to successfully execute a contract properly!