Words that Work

Words that Work

The Interpreters at UMHS recently went through the inaugural Words that Work (WTW) training, a planned communication model that reflects and supports an organization’s mission, vision, and values. It serves as a guide in what to say, how to handle given situations, and sometimes difficult encounters. It is not mechanical or phony, and it is not intended to restrict employees in what we say or make us sound robotic.

We often are in situations where we either do not know what to say, or we may know what to say, but not how to say it without offending someone, or later we may think “I should have said ‘….’. Interpreters encounter many situations where WTW would be helpful.

This blog will have a regular post featuring situations where WTW could be useful. We want your feedback of examples of WTW situations you have encountered in your personal and professional life as a Medical Interpreter.

Let me give you a little background on our first scenario.

As a manager, I often get complaints about our Medical Interpreters for “wanting to leave” an appointment. In most cases, the Interpreter has another appointment they need to get to. The manner in which this is expressed to the patient and the care providers, or not expressed, is very important.

Let’s look at it from the patient’s point of view. As an Interpreter, you are pacing, sighing, looking at the time repetitively, showing signs of annoyance, and verbalizing that you have to leave. How do you think the patient feels? Perhaps they feel that you don’t want to be there. Or you have someone or something else is more important than their care. In fact, you may make the patient feel anxious. Going to a doctor/hospital is stressful enough. Is adding to this stress something an Interpreter should be doing?

From a clinical perspective, the staff may view you as being difficult. Maybe even trying to skip out and cheat the system. Most often the clinics/staff do not see beyond their own needs—they need an Interpreter for their patients and care providers. Many clinical staff believe Interpreters are sitting in a line at an office somewhere just waiting to be called to interpret at an appointment. They are not aware that Interpreters have multiple daily appointments in different UMHS clinics, sometimes even in different counties. While we continually try to educate staff, this thinking does occur.

So how do you let the clinical staff and patients know that you have only a certain amount of time at their appointment? What “Words that Work” would you use in this situation?

Michelle Harris

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