As Heather said, you can’t schedule an emergency to occur at a convenient time. But there are some things you can do to make things easier in an emergency situation. You can start by understanding your options so you know what assistance you can request and what assistance the hospital or clinic is required to provide. Under perfect circumstances, the clinic or hospital will contact a qualified interpreter who will arrive within two hours. You’ve probably noticed that the term “qualified interpreter” keeps coming up. It’s important to understand what that means when it comes to interpreting in a health care setting. You have the right to a qualified interpreter in a medical emergency. A qualified interpreter in this situation is someone who has special training in medical terminology and communicating complex information about a patient’s medical condition, treatment recommendations and what to do for treatment. It’s not hard to imagine why a skilled interpreter with special training is important. You don’t want someone who is only able to communicate in basic sign to be responsible for communicating important, technical information to you. If you don’t think the interpreter has the necessary skills or you find it difficult to communicate with the person, you should request a different interpreter. This can be difficult to do, especially if you’ve had trouble getting access to an interpreter in the first place! But, it’s your health and you have the right to fully understand what’s going on. There are a few things you can do to make sure communication is clear and effective between you and the interpreter. First, engage in a basic conversation with the interpreter to make sure he or she understands your signing and that you can understand theirs. Second, assess the interpreter’s ability to communicate medical information. If the interpreter is only able to fingerspell the words but can’t explain their meaning, you may need a more highly trained interpreter. If you’re questioning whether or not the interpreter is qualified to work in medical settings, it’s appropriate to ask to see their blue RID card. The RID card should say “certified” at the very minimum for medical situations. If you don’t understand what the interpreter is telling you or if you don’t think the interpreter understands you, politely inform the physician or nurse that you and this interpreter are not communicating effectively and that you will need a replacement. You can also write a note that says the same thing. If they refuse to replace the interpreter, it is important to make this request in writing and get their refusal in writing, then keep the note. Repeat your request until another interpreter is provided. If you haven’t contacted an advocate yet, this would be a good time to do so! You also can check with your local hospital and urgent care clinic to find out if they use on-demand interpreting online – or ODIO. This can also be called VRI, or video remote interpreting. ODIO is a good alternative for clinics and hospitals in remote areas where access to qualified interpreters is more limited. Hospitals and clinics that provide ODIO or VRI can get in touch with a qualified interpreter within 15 minutes. You will then see the interpreter on a screen. Another communications option that you may want to consider is Computer Assisted Real-time Transcription, or CART, captioning. This is a good choice for people who do not communicate in ASL. CART allows an operator to type what is said into a computer that displays the typed words as captions on a screen for the patient to read. Knowing reasonable options that you can request for emergency interpreting is one way you can prepare for a medical emergency. Here are some other things you can do in advance: Second, you should find out who provides health care interpreting services in your area and what special training they have. Third, you want to make sure that your family members and emergency contacts understand that you have the right to have an interpreter so that they can advocate for you if you’re not in a position to advocate for yourself. Another way to prepare for an emergency situation is to meet with your health care providers in advance to discuss your interpreting needs and how they would typically respond to your need for communications access. Make an appointment with your medical clinic to discuss your need for an interpreter. Learn how they handle interpreting for routine medical examinations and visits. Ask if they’ve cared for deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing patients in the past. Find out the resources they use to obtain a qualified interpreter for routine medical appointments and make sure they understand that difference between an interpreter and an interpreter who is trained to interpret in a health care setting. The open enrollment period for your health insurance is a good time to check out medical providers in your area.
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