The ATA Chronicle - January/February 2021 - 20

Call Timing
Information from Linda Pollack-Johnson, recorded in minutes

157
Longest Call

10
Average Call

scheduling to x-ray

I'll interpret for the same

consultations. I get a lot of

caller from one day to the

speech, occupational, and

next. They'll recognize my

physical therapy sessions.

name and voice and expect

Nurses call from the patient's

me to magically pull up

bedside when administering

their information from the

pain medications or when

previous call, but I explain

doctors are making rounds

that this isn't possible-

or need to review informed

for their own good. This

consent forms. I'm called

detail is something that

upon to explain the

should be highlighted in a

preparations before surgery

pre-session2, but it's not

or to go over discharge

always possible to wedge a

instructions. Visiting nurses
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (my

When you're logged on,

time zone). But medical calls

agencies expect you to answer

come 24 hours a day, seven

a call within one or two rings.

days a week from all over

That's easy to do when I'm

the world, so agencies need

at my desk, but it gets more

coverage around the clock.

challenging when I'm doing

I log on with two different

housework. I need to have

agencies to increase my

a phone close by so I can

earning potential. If I take a

answer quickly and then jog

call with Agency 1 and then

back to my desk and switch

Agency 2 needs me and finds

to my headset while the

my line " busy, " Agency 2

coordinator is setting up the

will change my status to

call. I'm pretty adept at this

" unavailable " and will not

maneuver, but I've missed

send me any more calls until

many calls by misplacing the

I log back on the system. I
learned this the hard way, so
now I check my login status
frequently throughout the day.
Some agencies route calls
to your phone even when
you're not logged on if there
aren't enough interpreters
available to handle the call
volume. Others will alert you
with a text or email that calls
are waiting. When you're
hired, you can stipulate the
timeframe you're willing
to take these extra calls.
Again, I learned this the hard
way after being awakened
in the middle of the night
to interpret for a patient
who needed an extra pillow.

phone, pressing the wrong
buttons, or waiting until the
third ring. After burning an
omelet, I learned not to cook
anything while logged on to
the call center!
Not only am I on a rather
short leash when I'm logged
on, but if I have any other
firm time commitment

call with questionnaires to
determine if a patient is
eligible for home health care.
Staff from the emergency
department or recovery room
call and have me interpret
the questions they ask to
determine if a patient is
" oriented. " (These questions
include: " Do you know where
you are? " " What year is it? "
or " What season is it? " )
The non-medical calls
I receive tend to be for
all types of customer
service desks: banks, credit
cards, airports, employee
hotlines, hotels, and
insurance companies. I get
an occasional legal call for
hearings with workers'
compensation judges.
I never know what the
next call will be, which I find
exciting and stimulating. I
stay close to my computer

(webinar, dentist

so I can quickly look up

appointment, maintenance

new words online. I build

worker coming, etc.), I need

glossaries on different topics

to log off well in advance so

so I can refer to them the

as to not be interpreting on

next time a similar call

a call and have to bow out in

comes through.

the middle. I usually allow
30 minutes as a buffer in
those circumstances.

Confidentiality

pre-session into these calls.
The interpreter is often
conferenced into a call that's
already underway and is
expected to seamlessly blend
in without missing a beat.

Required Training
Agencies prefer to hire
over-the-phone interpreters
who have completed
some sort of training.3
(For example, completion
of the Bridging the Gap4
program.) For high-volume
languages, agencies prefer
candidates with over three
years of experience paired
with training and, ideally,
certification. Given that
there may not be enough
training resources available
for rarer languages, agencies
may be willing to consider
a candidate with volunteer
experience.5

Recruitment
When applying to an agency,
send a detailed résumé and a
copy of your certification(s).
This helps the agency
determine how best to use
your skills. Every year of your

Another piece of equipment

tenure with an agency, reach

you'll need is a paper

out to the vendor manager

shredder. Much of the

and send an updated résumé.

That 30-seconds jolted both

Topics and Terminology

me and my husband into

The bulk of my calls are

information that's shared

an adrenaline rush and we

for medical providers and

is confidential and needs

and competent on-demand

couldn't fall back to sleep for

their patients. They run the

to be destroyed after the

interpreter will be a natural

the rest of the night!

gamut from appointment

call. Sometimes, by chance,

choice for any scheduled

20

The ATA Chronicle | Januar y/February 2021

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The ATA Chronicle - January/February 2021

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