by Rita N. Weil
- Dress appropriately as a professional. Wear comfortable shoes, no sneakers
- Always have water with you. Some assignments can be unexpectedly long.
- Bring a snack with you such as nuts, string cheese, and fruit.
- Plan to arrive 10 minutes early. Leave lots of travel time especially during rush hour, and when you are going to a site for the first time. Sometimes patients arrive early and may be seen before you arrive.
- Always, always have pen and paper to take notes and a glossary of words.
- Write down any words that you don’t know in English or the target language that you hear during an encounter. Look them up when you get home.
- Start a glossary for yourself adding new words as you go along. You will be surprised how quickly your vocabulary will grow. You will hear the same words again and again.
- Collect any patient materials in English and the target language you find in clinics, hospitals or doctors’ offices. This is a great way to not only improve your vocabulary but also to increase your knowledge of diseases and their treatment.
- If you work as an independent contractor for an agency, always let the scheduler know each week when you are available. Staying in frequent contact will net you more assignments.
- Be available for last minute assignments. Showing you are willing to help out at the last minute will get you more future assignments.
- Always have your contact information for an assignment handy so you can call if you get lost or delayed in traffic.
- Turn your cell phone off during the encounter. Keep it on at other times so the office can reach you.
- Join both national and local professional organizations such as the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC), the International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA), and the American Translators Association (ATA) among others.
- Take advantage of future interpreter training opportunities and seminars on medical topics.
- Network with other interpreters.
- Wash your hands often.
- You don’t need to know everything. You just need to know what to do when you don’t know something.
- Welcome to a most rewarding and important career!
Does this post look familiar to you?
This is because it was originally published in the 2011 Winter issue of The Interpreters Voice, the official publication of the Interpreters Division prior to 2014. So much relevant, valuable and useful information can be found in those newsletters! Enjoy!