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  5. Tour of the Emergency Department

View “Tour of the Emergency Department,” which is given by Linda Way, the director of Emergency Services and Life Flight for St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth, Minnesota. Play the video, which is 8:25 in length.

Action Moment – Step 2: Take a Tour of Your Local Emergency Department
If you have not interpreted there in the ER yet, call your local hospital to see if you can set-up a tour of their emergency department. Explain that you are working on developing your competency to interpret in emergency settings and that a tour of the facility would be of help. (Generally, I have found that hospitals are very accommodating because they need quality interpreting services.) This would be an excellent thing to do as a small group of interpreters.

Questions for Reflection:
• In your local hospital, how was the setting similar or different from the St. Mary’s in Duluth?
• What is the role of triage in the admission process? If a patient has already gone through triage when you arrive, what questions might you ask to assist in your preparation before going into the patient care room?

Being Prepared: Stocking Your Tool Kit
As someone who has received many calls from emergency departments (at all times of the day and night), I have some suggestions for items to include in an interpreter’s tool kit. Some of these may seem obvious, but I include them just to see how they fit into the emergency setting.

Water Bottle: Often, the emergency department staff will offer interpreters coffee or water. However, having water accessible is important to continue to function effectively, especially if the visit turns out to be a prolonged one.

ID Badge/Proof of Certification: Having a picture ID badge can be an important tool for quickly letting the people at the information desk know who you are and allowing you to gain quick access to the patient care area. Particularly if you are working at a hospital for a first time, it may be important for you to prove your level of certification. As the result of litigation related to access for patients who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing or DeafBlind, hospitals are more sensitive to the need to hire qualified interpreters, and be able to document that this happened. You may be asked to have your certification documentation photocopied and included with a patient’s chart.

Energy Bar: As Linda Way explained, working in the ER with an empty stomach can lead to becoming sick. I find that having an energy bar, such as an athlete would use, can give me the necessary calories which both keep me from getting sick and give me the energy to keep working even late into the night. They are easy to carry with you, and easy to eat unobtrusively while waiting between times when you need to interpret.

Book/Journal/Laptop/Tablet: Because there can be long periods of waiting when there is no interaction with medical staff (and a patient may be asleep during this time) it is important to have something to do to keep yourself occupied. While you may just choose to read whatever magazines are available in the examination room, I find it helpful to bring either a book, journal or even a lap top computer to work on. Whatever you bring needs to be something that you can put down at a moment’s notice in case you are called on to interpret. I often do not ever take this out of my bag, but there are times when it allows me to keep busy during longer waiting periods so that I keep from being impatient.

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