Students have told me that medical providers object to the use of notepads in the interpreting session. I have spoken to my neighbor, a physical therapist, and she told me that the HIPAA regulations are becoming more and more stringent. Medical offices are continually watching out for potential leaks of protected information.

However, interpreters need to be able to use note taking to ensure accuracy and completeness. In court interpreting, specifically in a deposition, attorneys have the same concern. The following solution has always been accepted by the providers I have worked with, and my neighbor said it would be acceptable to her as well.

1. Walk into the session with your notepad and pen in hand, ready to use them. Do not wait until the session is underway to get them out of  your bag!

2. In your introduction, introduce your notepad. “As an interpreter, I am committed to providing an accurate and complete rendition of your message. To ensure that, I use my notepad. I am also committed to patient confidentiality. To ensure that, I always tear the used pages out of my notepad at the end of the session and give them to the provider before I leave the room.”

3. At the end of the session, give the provider the notes, even if there is almost nothing on the page. If they ask what to do with them, say, “My professional protocol is to give you the notes from the interpreter session so you can dispose of them in a manner consistent with HIPAA protocols. This way we avoid spillage of confidential information.”

If you follow these steps, you should not have any problems with the use of a notepad. Make sure the notepad you use has no extra information. In other words,  your interpreting notepad only has blank pages. You can use another notebook to take notes you have to keep. Your working notebook, for notes you have to keep, never comes out of your bag during the interpreting session.