interpreting and confidentiality
Thread poster: Eleonore Wapler

Eleonore Wapler  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:40
English to French
+ ...
Feb 18, 2012

I am sure this topic has come up countless times in this forum but here is the question.
When an interpreter works in a tough case, say a rape case at a police station or a case of schizophrenia at a mental health hospital and gets emotionally affected by what they hear, who do they turn to considering they are not supposed to disclose information to any third party?

Counsellors, police officers, medics, have people they can talk to, how about interpretors?

And when you do pour out a bit, how far can you go?


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 12:40
Chinese to English
That's a really tough one Feb 18, 2012

I would lean toward saying, you're not allowed to talk to anyone. Particularly with those sensitive cases, if it's enough to make you upset, the person involved might be even more upset at the idea of their case being discussed with outsiders.

But the problem is real - could you ask the institutions you work with if they could make their resources available to you? They might not be able to, but they know what you have to deal with, so they are at least likely to be sympathetic. If a police counselor can give you some time, that would be the one safe place I think you could let it out.


 

Claudia Brauer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:40
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Confidentiality and interpreter's stress Feb 18, 2012

Eleonore, confidentiality of a patient's information means that no-one outside the authorized individuals should be able to IDENTIFY the patient from the information you release. That means that whoever you release any of the information you have gained should be absolutely unable to IDENTIFY the patient at any point in time. That said, therefore, as long as what you share does not IDENTIFY the patient, you would be able to share your experiences with a counselor or a spiritual advisor. Therefore, the trick lies in not mentioning where you obtained the information (i.e., you should not say, I was at an interpreting session at Baptist hospital), who was involved (you cannot say, Dr. Smith was seeing a patient from Nicaragua), and you cannot reveal specifics about the case (the lady had been raped by her brother, who works at the local branch of XYZ bank). But you could say that you were in an interpreting session where a doctor was seeing a patient who had been raped by her brother. Since this information does not identify the patient, then you could share it, provided that you have a REASON for sharing it (your mental wellbeing, not just gossip) and that the person you are sharing it with is also a professional (i.e, a mental health or spiritual counselor, for example, who by their own profession are bound by the rules of confidentiality). You cannot share it with a friend or relative. HIPAA law in the US clearly states the "IDENTIFIERS" of what is called "PROTECTED HEALTH INFORMATION", which are those identifiers that you cannot share with others. They include name, address, telephone, fax, email, social security number, medical record number, account number, health plan number, drivers license number, vehicle identification, device identifiers and serial numbers, names of relatives, URL, IP address, biometric identifiers, photos, date of birth, admission date, discharge date, date of death, exact age, and in general, any other UNIQUE IDENTIFYING NUMBER, CHARACTERISTIC or CODE. So, in short, you can share your thoughts provided (a) it is with a professional (b) you do it because you need to, not because you want to gossip, and (c) you do not reveal any specific information that would allow the individual to be identified.

 

Derrio  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:40
Spanish to English
+ ...
A tough one, but... Feb 18, 2012

Phil is right in that the institutions may be able to provide someone. In the case of rape (I was a Police Officer for nearly 20 years and hold the DPSI, so have seen things from both sides as it were) I am assuming (depending on the Force area it happens) that rapes and such offences are dealt with at specialist suites that are also staffed by medical staff and counsellors and I see no harm in approaching them. Failing that, could you possibly approach your GP to suggest someone? - remember, any counsellor you speak to is also bound by very strict rules regarding confidentiality, so there is no danger of anything you discuss becoming public knowledge.

With regard to confidentiality, as long as names/dates/locations are not mentioned, I don't see too much of a problem. Remember, if the case gets to trial, certain aspects (apart from the victim's identity) will be a matter of public record and will have been discussed in other professional circles (Police, CPS, defence lawyers, etc.).

Another possibility could be to contact your local Victim Support group, who may be able to suggest something, but in the first instance I would suggest asking the institution you are working with. As I said, as long as identities are not revealed, I don't think anyone could hold it against someone who wanted to discuss the matter with a trained professional.


 

Eleonore Wapler  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:40
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thanks Feb 18, 2012

That's helpful, thanks.

I suppose it means every time an interpreter gets upset or tense after hearing tough things they need to go and talk to a professional/counsellor of some sort - without disclosing any IDENTIFYING elements?

In my current situation I interpreted for something else recently. Just interpreting, neutral conduit. But after the interview on my way home I was a bit upset and I noticed I had a sore neck. I didn't say a word about the case to anyone - other than saying "I am back from interpreting at such hospital" to a bunch of friends who I was meeting with when I got back from the job and then intentionnally changed the topic of conversation - but I have been really tense since.
I don't know how much of it is due to the assignement (other things could very well be the cause of it) and I don't think I am upset enough to go and see a counsellor this time/ at this stage, but I was wondering.

So you are saying telling a friend who is alien to the case without disclosing any identifying elements would be a breach of confidentiality?

Is that where the line sits?

[Edited at 2012-02-18 15:48 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-02-18 15:51 GMT]


 

Claudia Brauer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:40
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Be careful Feb 19, 2012

Eleonore, as with all things confidential, there is always a fine line to walk, and a lot of personal judgement to accompany it. This means, from your last post, yes, you did understand correctly. However, there are other issues that come into play, including Codes of Ethics of the interpreting profession, for example. You really have to thread lightly. I am guessing if you really need it, yes, you might want to very generally discuss it with your friend, if your really think you need to, being very sure that she will not disclose with others whatever you shared with her. Now then, my question to you would be other. What are you doing to handle stress? There are many articles and workshops and ways in which interpreters learn to deal with stress. So, in my opinion, the question should shift from asking about confidentiality to ask about how are you managing stress in general and what techniques are you learning and developing to deal with stress in your job, which is by its own nature a stressful profession. I would recommend you shift to looking for ways to deal with stress in general. Learn techniques that would work for you and start applying them. Learning to deal with stress is not something that you automatically know or can magically acquire. It is a skill like any other skill you acquire, that requires a little dedication and purpose. So, that is my recommendation, to start acquiring techniques that help you learn to deal with stress in a better way for your entire wellbeing. Remember the mind-body connection.

 

Ania Heasley  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:40
English to Polish
+ ...
Grin and bear it / stay professional Feb 20, 2012

If we decide to go down this route and counsel everybody who encounters 'bad things' in the course of their professional life, we would need to extend counselling services to the majority of police officers, solicitors, judges, just about anybody involved in the criminal justice system, family law, all the doctors, nurses, paramedics, anybody who has anything to do with health service, where really bad things happen (terminal illnesses, stillborn babies, ectopic pregnancies, heart attacks, paralysis, children's cancers, the lot) possibly also county courts cases if an individual in question is particularly sensitive to the brutality of some of the eviction/repossession cases.

We are all adults, we have decided to go into a profession with potential for upsetting, disturbing situations, and so I believe we should be mature and professional enough to take it in our stride.

Otherwise it all becomes a little bit of a farse.


 
Post removed: This post was hidden by a moderator or staff member because it was not in line with site rule

Eleonore Wapler  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:40
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thanks Feb 20, 2012

Hi Claudia,
That's a good point. I am going to do some exploration down this line. Because stress due to things like working under pressure, unexpected events, public speaking, expectations etc is a bit different from stress due to hearing disturbing stories. I shall look for a technique to leave the story out of myself.

Ania,
Indeed, hence the question. I guess the ability to "grin and bear it" comes with experience too. I suppose the first death a junior doctor deals with on the ward is a bit traumatising but they just adjust to the fact death and illness is part of life and of their job - not mere theory anymore.

Same with interpreters. They do need to learn to adjust.


 

Alison Sparks  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:40
French to English
+ ...
character building Feb 20, 2012

I was often told as a youngster that having to deal with difficult things like a death, a serious injury, or even being the victim of a crime, would make me a stronger person. I don't know if that's true at all.

I agree with Ania that counselling everybody takes it too far, and I'm even inclined to think that too protective a childhood can make it more difficult to deal with any unpleasantness in later in life, whether it's listening to other people's horror stories or living out your own.

Claudia's right about learning to manage the stress, but equally if it's confidential then it's confidential.

When I was little I used to rip up a feather pillow (small one) to counter stress. My solution now is to go out into the garden when I get home and have a good SCREAM. Fortunately I live a long way from my nearest neighbours!!!

(In case you find it strange that I was stressed when I was little, try living with a mother with undiagnosed borderline personality disorder.)


 


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