Collaboration between On-Site CDI Interpreters and Video Remote Interpreters


Sight translation by Mary Luczki. 

InDemand believes that VRI is just one tool in the communication toolkit that doctors, patients and providers can rely on when working with Deaf patients. In previous blogs, we’ve outlined what it takes to select the right VRI company, how to ensure the interpreters are qualified and when and how to work with a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI). Providing interpreting services is not “one size fits all” and it’s not exclusive to one modality; often interpreting services can take on a unique collaboration between on-site and VRI interpreters.

When a Deaf patient is seen in the clinic or hospital, his or her health and communication needs are top priority. Just as a doctor works to determine the best course of action to resolve health care concerns, interpreters work to find the best way to ensure communication needs of all parties involved are clearly met. Let’s examine an actual medical encounter that uses VRI and an on-site CDI and how these interpreters worked best together to provide the Deaf patient with a voice in their health care.

A Deaf patient is brought to the hospital by ambulance for chest pain. The hospital staff realizes the patient is Deaf and immediately brings in the VRI cart with a certified, medically experienced sign language interpreter. During the patient’s initial triage, the interpreter realizes that the patient is using a non-standardized form of ASL. The interpreter requests that the hospital get in touch with a local interpreting agency to request a CDI- as soon as possible as it can take several hours depending on availability. Until then, the VRI interpreter continues to provide service while teaming with another virtual interpreter for support and clarification.

As soon as possible, a CDI arrives on-site to team with the VRI interpreter. The CDI brings on-screen the VRI interpreter(s) who have worked with this patient and they share a short debrief to ensure that the CDI has all the necessary background information. As the medical staff talk to the patient and ask questions, the VRI interpreter provides that information to the CDI, the CDI then interprets to the Deaf patient in an ASL modality that is most effective for that individual. The communication gap is closed, the patient is able to fully participate in their healthcare and the providers are able to receive an accurate interpretation because of the collaboration between the CDI and VRI interpreter.

One of the most important moments in this encounter between the interpreters was when they first began to work together. Whether the medical encounter requires an on-site interpreter to replace the VRI interpreter (perhaps the patient has limited mobility or limited vision and VRI won’t be conducive) or the addition of a CDI takes place, the handing off of information thus far is critical. It’s important for all interpreters involved, regardless of modality and personal preference, that any linguistic insight regarding the patient and his or her care is valuable and needs to be sought and shared.

Now that VRI is much more prevalent in medical settings, there is a shift taking place in the interpreting community; interpreters are finding employment providing video remote services or ‘virtual’ interpreting. As when any industry experiences growth, there are adjustments to be made. Some on-site interpreters are resistant to teams with virtual interpreters and believe only on-site interpreters should be used. Often times, when the on-site interpreter arrives, the ‘machine’ is immediately disconnected leaving no opportunity to hand off much needed information to the newest member of the interpreting team.  Rather, all parties need to think outside the traditional box and clearly communicate with one another, acknowledging that there is a time and place for each interpreting modality.

As the toolkit of interpreting strategies grows, so should the flexibility of the interpreters.  Ultimately, patient care takes precedent and providing the most effective and efficient interpretation to meet each individual’s healthcare needs should be priority.

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