Telephonic Interpreter – The Unsung Hero

Telephonic Interpreters often support emergency rooms as well as 9-1-1 call centers. They can be the key players and unsung heroes in truly urgent situations. These encounters could take place with a 9-1-1 dispatcher, paramedics, and first responders in the field or in an ambulance, or in the trauma bay of an emergency room.

9-1-1 call centers are often the first line in an emergency situation. When the caller is limited-English proficient (LEP), an interpreter needs to be included as quickly as possible. Telephonic interpretation allows this to happen. Calling 9-1-1 is a high-stress situation and the caller might not provide information to the dispatcher in the order in which questions are asked. When the caller is LEP, the job of the dispatcher becomes more difficult and the job of the telephonic interpreter becomes more important. The interpreter must prioritize what they hear and provide the most critical information to the dispatcher first. Summary interpretation is sometimes necessary for these situations. Not only does the interpreter need to translate the words, but the tone of voice needs to be appropriate to the emergency situation, and observations regarding the sounds or background conversations on the caller’s end should be communicated to the dispatcher as they might provide critical information for the first responders. The goal of the 9-1-1 dispatcher is to get help to the patient as quickly as possible, and that is often only made possible because of the telephonic interpreter.

Telephonic interpretation can also be used by first responders in the field or in an ambulance. The connection can take place via cell phone or EMS radio at the scene of an accident/crime, in an LEP patient’s home, or in the ambulance. Critical background information is often exchanged, which can impact the course of treatment and steps taken when transporting a patient to the emergency room or treating them at the sight of the incident.

In a standard scenario in an emergency room, a telephonic interpreter is called to the bedside when an LEP patient arrives. Emergency room staff begins by determining the cause of injury and then proceeds to survey the situation – location of the injury, vital information, etc. Critical background information is exchanged, making the interpreter’s job of the utmost importance as questions might be asked of the patient – or the patient’s family – that need to be answered right away to determine the course of treatment. At the same time, the patient or family needs to clearly understand what is happening and what the recommended steps for treatment are. In emergency situations involving an LEP patient, important medical decisions are often able to be made in the timeliness necessary because of telephonic interpreters.

For more about telephonic interpretation in the healthcare industry, check out this blog post. Here at Argo, we support multiple 9-1-1 call centers. To learn more about our telephonic interpretation services, visit our website.

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