13 Dec Thank You for Helping a Colleague Out
We love it when our articles get your attention. And especially when it is one of The Couch help pieces, because it is a teaching and mentoring tool and each one of you who comments on them is helping a colleague out.
We thank all who contributed with their comments to the piece published on November 08. To refresh our readers’ memories, a colleague reached out asking for guidance with a medical interpreting issue. Below is a collection of excerpts from the responses received.
One of our colleagues who is interested in the medical interpreting field had concerns after learning about the fate of a friend who is a medical interpreter. Our colleague’s friend was fired after refusing to interpret for something that went against her religious beliefs.
Our colleague asks, “Aren’t professionals supposed to recuse themselves when they can’t be impartial?” These two concepts seem to contradict each other, and our colleague wanted clarification since s/he wants to join the ranks of certified medical interpreters in 2020.
Here come the answers
Rosemary points out that the Code of Ethics simplifies the situation: [I]t is not [the interpreter’s] dialogue, it is the dialogue of the provider and patient. The proper training and adherence to the Code of Ethics would have resolved the issue. And Maria Fernanda agrees, “This is a profession of service, where we ideally only become instruments of communication.”
Jeanine also agrees with Rosemary, reminding us that “The lens is theirs. Not the INTERPRETER’s.” A Del adds to this argument ending her comment with a warning: “To insert your beliefs in this scenario is making the situation about yourself and this is not what you’re being paid to do. If you have such limitations, you have no business being a medical interpreter.”
Helen suggests asking what it entails before accepting the appointment, because “once you are there, recusing yourself is no longer an option.”
Janis believes interpreters should be able to recuse themselves when their impartiality is at stake. And she sees it as a choice independent contractors have, but they should also inform those hiring their services or they can be let go, as Janis puts it, “It’s a two-way street.” Marcela agrees with Janis and adds that it is important to learn as much as possible about an assignment before agreeing to it.
Irene questions the wisdom of leaving the patient and provider in a lurch, frustrated and angry. That choice also reflects badly on our profession. While Alfred says that “Nothing beats a guilt-free conscience and a good night sleep.”
Let’s hear from the professional associations
We took it upon ourselves to complement our colleagues’ points of view by referencing the Medical Interpreter Codes of Ethics available. The International Medical Interpreters Association’s does not mention the above conflict. The National Council on Interpreting in Health Care’s and AMITAS‘ do not address the issue either.
The one document that mentions the needs of interpreters is the California Healthcare Interpreter Association Standards Manual. Item g. on page 27 states “Request permission to withdraw if it is perceived that pursuing the interpreting session would cause undue mental or emotional distress to the interpreter, due to personal trauma or experiences, thus impeding the interpreting task.”
It seems that besides the fact that as an independent contractor one has the power to select which assignments to take, that sharing one’s preferences and limitations with potential clients ahead of time is perceived as a must. Further to that, we only have what item g. in CHIA’s document states. In summary, there isn’t much out there in terms of professional guidance regarding our colleague’s conflicting information.