Be the Best Video Remote Interpreter You Can Be. Here’s How

Smiling female video interpreter holding a pen and sitting at a table in front of a laptop.

Looking back at 2020, we have all come a long way as we adapted to life during a global pandemic. In fact, many got through the worst of the health emergency by relying on technology to connect with others and to take care of basics like ordering food, staying in touch with family, and even consulting with a physician.

In this respect, telehealth had a momentous year; according to a report published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services in July 2020, “In April, nearly half (43.5%) of Medicare primary care visits were provided through telehealth compared with less than one percent (0.1%) in February before the public emergency.” This resulted in doctors around the country quickly adapting and resorting to this technology amidst social distancing rules and shutdowns. The pivot was not only for medical providers — on-site medical interpreters, too, had to adapt quickly in order to stay safe during the pandemic.  

As we look to 2021, an interesting thought crossed our minds. There was fear that technology would take over the industry, as AI became smarter and tech companies released new translation apps, but 2020 showed us that technology could help medical interpreters reach more limited English proficient (LEP) individuals in a time of real need. This last year pushed interpreters into the spotlight, showing the world how instrumental they are in fighting the pandemic with their language skills.

Telehealth technology will likely still be used in the medical field throughout 2021, so it’s a good idea to hone your remote interpreting skills now and be ready to adapt to the changing industry at a moment’s notice.

Our QA Department recently shared their best pieces of advice for medical interpreters who are making the transition to a video remote interpreting (VRI) platform. Below are their top recommendations.

Make eye contact

Eunice, QA specialist and Mandarin VRI interpreter, recommends making eye contact during a video interaction.

“Visually engaging with the LEP [individual] and the provider builds trust and rapport,” Eunice Explains. Eye gaze is an important tool to have and be comfortable with as a VRI interpreter.

According to the University of Michigan, eye contact is a powerful tool in communication that can increase trust between two parties. Eye contact can become especially important in a video interpreting session when an interpreter can have a tendency to look down at their notes for too long.

Related: 4 Helpful Tips on How to Rock Remote Interpreting

Shift your mindset

Bahaa, QA specialist and Arabic VRI interpreter, transitioned from on-site interpreting to a remote platform earlier in his career. After 5 years of on-site interpreting in hospitals and clinics, he mastered the use of the technology during interpreting sessions when he shifted to a remote interpreting platform.

With his embrace of technology, Bahaa arrived to the conclusion that “VRI has the same goals [as on-site interpreting], just different use of technology.”

He further observed that remote interpreting shortens the distance and time between an interpreter and a patient, making it much more efficient to safely secure an interpreter for those in need.

It may take a little while to learn how to use the interpreting protocols and skills acquired throughout a career as an on-site interpreter, but we can make technology our friend by working to improve and self-evaluate our performance after each interaction.

Related: A Self-Assessment Is the Key to Being a Better Interpreter

A headset that a video remote interpreter would use lying against a yellow background.

Invest in good equipment

On the subject of improvement, Helen, VRI lead and Russian VRI interpreter, has a recommendation that should be at the top of everyone’s list: “Never stop learning . . . and invest in a good headset.”

As you transition from on-site interpreting to a VRI platform, you will likely have some questions about equipment, backgrounds, lighting, and ongoing education. While all of these are instrumental to a successful interpreting session, investing in the right headset will help you ensure you can hear others clearly and therefore deliver information accurately and completely. A good headset should:

  • Fit comfortably around both ears
  • Have a noise-canceling and mute feature
  • Should be wired, not Bluetooth. Bluetooth headsets have a tendency to run out of battery for longer interpreting sessions

Related: Top 5 Things Video Remote Interpreters Can’t Live Without

A smiles is worth a thousand words

We’ve saved the best piece of advice our QA specialists and VRI interpreters had to offer: Don’t forget to smile!

When appropriate, a smile can go a long way to convey a friendly demeanor and a helpful hand.

Interested in video remote interpreting?

Hit up our career page now!

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