Don’t worry about waking me up, when I decided to go to medical school I knew I would be called in to the ER at 2:00 in the morning and I knew… oh, wait that’s right, I never went to medical school! I’M NOT A DOCTOR!
I know the WiFi password and door codes to the snack room and bathroom at A LOT of Emergency Rooms.
Props to Chelsey Cahilly
Medical or Legal ASL dictionaries are only marginally effective interpreting tools, unless the Client has read them too.
Flu season only really begins when a nurse walks in the Deaf patient’s room yelling, “WHY AREN’T YOU WEARING A MASK.”
A graduate of my program and I were talking a few days ago when she reminded me of a lesson I taught her in a class called “Professional Issues in Interpreting.” A lesson that she has used as a mentor.
(How I know that this happened is not important… ahem.)
On the first day of an undergraduate course in Gross Anatomy (for those who have never had the pleasure, is the class where pre-med, nursing and other medical field students study the human body using cadavers) the Professor, who looked exactly like you would imagine a professor of Gross Anatomy would look, divided the class into teams of four, assigned each team to a body and passed out a thick packet of papers to each team.
The Professor then told them to read the entire packet of instructions, then pick up a cutting blade and follow what the written instructions dictated to the letter!
The teams began to pour over the pages of instructions. While they were reading the Professor began to walk around the tables and stare at each team. She looked at each of the individual team members a little longer than was comfortable. She would frequently look at her watch.
She began to look at her watch more often and frown.
Some of the groups began to elect a person on the team to begin cutting (the first instruction). Others were still reading and the Professor began to tap her watch, frown and sigh.
Soon every group, while still reading, was through the process of electing a team member to begin cutting and every team was prepping their cadaver for the first incision.
Suddenly the Professor yelled “STOP!”
She looked around the room at the students who were reading the packets with blade in hand and poised to cut.
“How many of you have completed the reading?” She asked.
No one had.
“Why,” her voice as sharp as any of the cutting tools, “do ANY of you have a knife in your hand?”
Now remember, these are pre-med students. God complexes in training.
One of them stepped up to the challenge and said, “I don’t appreciate you setting us up like that!”
“Like what?” The Professor’s voice was a little too sweet.
The student charged ahead, “You told us to read the whole thing and then you stared at us and looked at your watch and frowned and sighed.”
“And so,” her voice was pure patience with a razors edge, “you were fully prepared to cut into a human body, without fully understanding why, nor with any actual plan in mind, because I looked at you?”
There was an uncomfortable shuffling of feet.
The Professor was now at the lectern. “Someday you hope to be doctors or nurses and someday you will have a sick child in front of you and you will have no idea what is causing it. But you will have that child’s parents staring, frowning, or worse crying and begging or screaming and demanding that you ‘DO SOMETHING.” The Professor paused. It was dead silent in the room (no pun intended). “At that moment I want you to think of how much regret you feel right now for your pride and arrogance making you pick up a blade and telling you that it was ok to blindly cut into a human-being’s body, with no real plan in mind, because I stared at you.” She paused again to the choking silence in the room.
“I believe you all need some time to think. We will try this again next time. Class dismissed.”
I think about this every time I am working with a young interpreter and their hands start to fly before the second syllable of Hel-lo has left the speakers mouth.
I ask, “why didn’t you wait for a full idea?”
The student usually humms and haws a little and the braver soul says, “I got nervous because you were watching me…”.
“Someday you will have a Deaf Client in front of you and they will be looking at you and wanting you to start interpreting before you have the complete meaning processed in your head.”
Maybe it’s the doctor telling them the test results.
Maybe the boss giving them their evaluation upon which their raise depends.
Maybe it’s a cop telling them he is sorry but there has been an accident.
“The most important job you have at that moment is to deliver the interpretation accurately and completely,” I explain.
I then look them in the eyes, “never be pressured to start moving your hands before YOU are ready, having processed the interpretation and prepared the interpretation. Never sacrifice the process because the Client is looking at you.”
Drunk and stupid is not just for hearing people. Drunk and stupid does not care if it’s a holiday. So it’s interpreting at the ER for you! As it is 12:07 a.m., it’s not even technically Thanksgiving anymore.
He has to hold his breath while we take the x-ray, so, um…
We got it.
We got it. It’s all worked out. You set up the x-ray out here and go behind the screen. When you are ready say “go” and I tap him on the shoulder, he holds his breath, I run behind the screen, you push the button the machine goes buzz click, I run out and tap him again and he breathes.
And he knows to do all that?
We worked it out while you were loading the plates.
Not our first time.