What Is It Like to Work as an On-Site Freelance Medical Interpreter (or Independent Contractor)?

Updated on May 2, 2018
gerimcclym profile image

Geri McClymont has been working as a freelance medical interpreter since 2013 and obtained her certification through NBCMI in July 2015.

 Language agencies often can’t foretell how far in advance they’ll need interpreters in any given language pair.
Language agencies often can’t foretell how far in advance they’ll need interpreters in any given language pair. | Source

So you’ve completed your medical interpreter training program and are ready to start working as an independent contractor. You’ve likely been told you should contact language agencies as a start, yet you want to know what you’re getting yourself into before you start applying.

Here's an inside look at what it’s like working for language companies as an on-site freelance medical interpreter, based on my own experiences.

Assignments

Once you’ve signed your first contract with an agency, be prepared to start receiving assignments by phone as well as electronically right away! Unless you’ve specified that you don’t accept same-day requests, expect to be contacted anywhere from several weeks in advance to the hour of the assignment.

While it’s a good idea to ask each agency before you sign the contract how much prior notification they will normally provide you for assignments, language companies often can’t foretell how far in advance they’ll need interpreters in any given language pair. This is driven by their end clients’ request for interpreters, which is often completely unpredictable.

Be sure to decide in advance what your rates will be for work you accept with less than 24 hours’ notice.

Have you worked for language agencies?

See results

Employment Verification Forms

Each time you accept an interpreting assignment from an agency, the agency either sends you an employment verification form (EVF), complete with assignment details, or they ask you to complete a blank EVF with the details they send you separately. EVFs generally include the following information:

  • Interpreter’s name
  • Language (other than English)
  • Date of assignment
  • Contracted assignment beginning and end times
  • Name and address of medical facility
  • Department within the medical facility
  • Patient medical record number (MRN)
  • Patient name

Note: It’s important to record on EVFs the actual start and end times for assignments, which may differ from your contracted start and end times, such as when patients arrive early or appointments last longer than anticipated.

Each EVF is signed by both the interpreter and the medical provider at the conclusion of each assignment and must be received by the agency within 24 hours.

HIPAA Regulations

Confidentiality

Because EVFs normally contain highly sensitive information, such as patient names and medical record numbers, it's imperative to keep them in a safe location at all times, as well as to shred hard copies and delete electronic versions immediately after submitting them to their designated agencies.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that mandates the protection of the privacy and security of patients’ health information and enforces severe consequences for violations of this act, including termination of employment, jail time, and fines of up to $50,000 per violation.

Make sure to keep separate documentation of your assignments, including beginning and end times, for your own records.

Evaluation Forms

Some agencies will ask you to take an interpreter evaluation form with you to each assignment. These are for the medical provider to complete regarding your performance after each assignment and to fax directly to the agency.

Items on evaluation forms may include the following:

  • Did the interpreter arrive on time for the assignment?
  • Was the interpreter dressed appropriately?
  • Did the interpreter introduce him or herself?
  • Did the interpreter communicate effortlessly?
  • Did the interpreter communicate effectively?
  • Did the interpreter conduct him or herself in a professional manner?

Create an Efficient Filing System

It's critical to have an excellent filing system to organize your paperwork for the various agencies you’ll work for. This will help you locate forms quickly as you prepare for your daily assignments and send out invoices at the end of the month, in addition to making your life easier during tax time.

Your files for each agency might be labeled something like this:

FILES FOR EACH AGENCY:

  • Policies and Procedures
  • Contract
  • Completed Employment Verification Forms
  • Blank Employment Verification Forms
  • Blank Evaluation Forms
  • Invoices
  • Monthly Activity Reports

Payment

Some language companies will request that you send them an invoice at the end of each month, while others will send you a monthly activity report/invoice based on the time recorded on your EVFs.

Agencies typically pay you electronically by depositing your payments directly into your bank account on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.

Keep close tabs on your deposits to ensure they're accurate!

Working for Multiple Agencies

Each agency is unique. Once you begin working for more than one, you'll inevitably notice similarities and differences in their policies and procedures.

For example, one company may require that you contact them immediately if your patient doesn't show up within fifteen minutes after your contracted start time, while another company may request that you only contact them if the appointment duration exceeds your contracted time by more than an hour.

These policies are normally based on the agencies’ agreements with their direct clients, meaning the medical facilities you interpret at, and it’s essential that you stay on top of these nuances. If needed, create a table with each agency’s requirements and carry it with you as a guide.

You may also want to use a log sheet to document your communications with language companies during assignments to help you monitor your compliance with their guidelines.

These are some additional instances in which agencies may request that you call them during assignments:

  • If a patient shows up before your contracted start time
  • If the appointment was cancelled
  • If the appointment ends 20 or more minutes before your contracted end time

Document Wait Time

As a medical interpreter, expect long periods of wait time during assignments.

To protect yourself as well as the agencies you represent, it's important to document all wait time, including:

  • When a patient arrives late
  • When the medical provider arrives late
  • Any time period after which a patient has been admitted for his appointment and is waiting to see a medical provider, including the waiting period after a patient has had his vital signs checked by a nurse and is waiting to see a specialist.

This way if you are later asked by your agency why an appointment that should have lasted an hour lasted two hours, you have documentation to back you up.

Challenges of Working as an Independent Contractor

Working as a freelancer certainly has its advantages, but make no mistake—there's a trade-off for the freedom you have as a freelancer. Here are some of the challenges you'll face:

  • You're not guaranteed a certain number of hours per week or per month, so your income may fluctuate drastically from one month to the next. This can be especially difficult if you rely primarily on your freelance work for financial support. Even working for multiple agencies does not guarantee you steady work and income. In fact, it's common for different agencies to want to contract you for appointments at overlapping times, so you inevitably have to decline one offer in order to accept the other.
  • As an independent contractor, you won't receive benefits that are normally offered to full-time employees, such as health and dental insurance, so you are responsible for paying for these out of pocket if you want them.
  • As a freelancer, state and federal taxes won't be withheld from your paychecks, so it's important for you to remember to budget for these, as well as for self-employment taxes, so you aren't caught off guard when tax time rolls around.
  • Staying on top of each agency's policies can be confusing. For example, one agency may require you to call them if the patient doesn't show up within a certain amount of time after the assignment begins, whereas another agency may not. Neglecting to stay on top of these individual nuances may cost you future work with an agency.
  • You'll be traveling to multiple locations and will need to familiarize yourself with the driving route and distance to each one, as well as with the parking facilities at each building, in order to know how much driving time to allow yourself so you aren't late to assignments.
  • You'll frequently receive short notice for assignments.
  • Your schedule will likely change daily.

Some Final Thoughts

  • Keep a mileage log to help track your traveling expenses.
  • Keep your vehicle in good condition.
  • Always give your best!

© 2016 Geri McClymont

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, toughnickel.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://toughnickel.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)