Has anyone else been surprised lately by the silence of a nurse taking your vitals? Twice recently, a nurse took my blood pressure, temperature, and weight and entered them into a computer without telling me what they were. Even during an appointment made specifically for discussion of medical results, I had to ask for the printout of said results.
The absence of information about vital measurements is problematic when it’s about you, but when you are an interpreter for a patient, it could put the patient’s health at risk. Not familiar with the protocol or the language, the patient will often go quietly along with the nurse or doctor’s omission. An undesirable outcome, yet protocol forbids the interpreter to intervene.
The rules of interpreting are strict: an interpreter must interpret only what is said, and must not attempt to advise the client. Yet in this instance, remaining silent about silence potentially allows a client to miss valuable information.
Since the interpreter’s reason for being is to make sure our clients get the information they need, is this a conflict between the protocol and the patient’s best interest? Until this is resolved by the professional rules of interpretation, I invite all of my clients and every patient to keep in mind the following Latin proverb: “Qui rogat, non errat.” Or, “who asks, does not err.” If your nurse seems focused on entering your information into a computer as fast as possible, you should ask him or her to repeat your readings and explain what they mean. I even write my results down.
Ultimately, no matter how hard a nurse or doctor may try, anyone can make a small mistake. Ask, ask, ask until you understand – this is, after all, your appointment and your health. Doctors and nurses may be specialists, but you are an equal partner with them where your body is concerned. Once you leave the doctor’s office, it’s you who is taking care of you, so know what’s going on, and what those numbers mean!