Returning to Work – Staying Safe & Staying Healthy
In-person appointments have always been the major mode of interpreting for Spokane International Translation (SIT), and while remote interpreting has surged in the last few months, more and more in-person appointments are being requested. Some interpreters have been comfortable taking in-person appointments during the entirety of COVID, while others have not. As government restrictions loosen and facilities begin the process of re-opening, more of you may feel it is time to return to in-person interpreting—but how can we ensure we stay safe, comfortable, and able to do our jobs efficiently?
The biggest concern many interpreters have revolves around safety, especially since the vast majority of SIT’s appointments are medical in nature. This is a valid concern, and one that has no easy answer. The government, both state and federal, have put out guidelines as to what they believe the safest course of action is at any given time; but even with these guidelines, not every person or situation can be addressed by them. And the larger issue is that no one can give a 100% definite answer as to what will ensure every single person’s safety. The situation is changing constantly, yet in each county we are seeing that different households and people in different situations are being affected by COVID in a variety of ways.
So how do we go back to working on-site while still maintaining our sense of safety?
- Follow guidelines. This includes any government AND facility guidelines. Some facilities are requiring anyone who enters to wear a mask; some are doing temperature checks at the door; and others are not doing either. Whatever the facility is requiring, follow it! The guidelines are in place for you, for the patients, and for the medical staff’s safety.
- Use any PPE (personal protective equipment) you feel are necessary. Regardless of the facility’s requirements, if YOU feel you need to wear a mask to be safe, wear one. How each person defines what their personal safety looks like will be different. One interpreter might feel fine without a mask if the clinic allows it, while another would not feel comfortable in a public facility without one. Be sure to follow each facility’s guidelines and be sure to wear any PPE they require—but if a mask or any other PPE is optional, wear what makes you feel safest.
Beyond the big issue of safety, people are also concerned about what getting back into in-person interpreting will look like and some remain uncomfortable with how uncertain everything is. How many appointments will be in-person going forward? Will remote interpreting still be as widely used as it is right now? Will the appointments come back gradually, or all at once?
There is no hard and fast answer to any of these questions, as there has never been a scenario with this scale of effect. Neither we, Spokane International Translation, nor the facilities we work with, are exactly sure how things will unfold over the coming months; much is uncertain and it is difficult to predict how COVID will impact the interpreting industry in the long-haul. But we can focus on how everything looks day to day, week to week. No matter what happens, SIT will be here to keep all our interpreters updated as life unfolds, and will continue working hard with community partners to ensure patients and clients are receiving interpreting services, regardless of the modality of service.
MAINTAINING MENTAL WELLNESS
So, the big concerns are addressed—what now? We can take physical precautions, but the future is still murky; uncertainty breeds anxiety, and it can be difficult to work and provide quality interpretation when you may be overwhelmed. What steps can we take to keep our anxieties at a minimum, and our outlook positive?
- Mindfulness. The goal of mindfulness is to keep yourself grounded, in the present, and focused on what you can control. Some things to try if you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious might be:
a. Making checklists/to-do lists
b. Breathing exercises (whether on your own, with a friend, or with an app to guide you)
c. Exercising/getting outside (within state-mandated guidelines)
d. Arts & crafts
e. Taking time to check in on family and friends, while maintaining Social Distancing (try Zoom coffee meetings!)
f. Having plans for the day, even if you are not scheduled to work. Plan something for yourself, like reviewing your medical terminology or taking a webinar class.
- Be gentle with yourself. No matter how much mindfulness you practice or how calm you have been thus far, there are likely going to be moments where you feel overwhelmed. Do not be upset with yourself when these moments happen—our entire world was turned upside down without warning, and it is okay to feel anxious. It is okay to be upset about things being cancelled. It is okay to be worried about what the next month, or the ones after that, will look like. Just acknowledge the anxiety when it happens and do your best to bring yourself back to the present moment when you can.
- Take precautions. Like we mentioned above, follow any government and facility guidelines—but if the guidelines become less strict than you are comfortable with, take the precautions you feel are necessary to be safe.
- Ask questions. If you are unsure about a facility’s policies or are uncertain about how to handle a situation, ask us! Do not be afraid to ask questions. We are here to help you, and we want to make sure everyone feels as informed and safe as possible.
Regardless of how the next several months play out, know that SIT will be here for you. We appreciate everything our interpreters do, both for our agency and for the community at large. Your safety is our priority, and we want you feeling as prepared, comfortable, and secure as possible when you return to in-person interpreting!