KGH Interpretation Spanish-English Medical & Mental Health Interpretation

Bulk Adding Repeat Interpreting Assignments to Google Calendar

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If you’re a freelance medical interpreter like me, you may occasionally have patients for whom you regularly interpret. It’s a luxury not all interpreters get to experience, and often we leave one-time appointments pondering the likelihood that we’ll ever see that patient again. But on occasion, certain circumstances call for the use of the same interpreter for a patient over multiple appointments that sometimes can extend over weeks or months. Some of these special circumstances include:

  • Patients with complex cases
    Having to re-hash out the details at every appointment with a new interpreter can be a hassle and a huge time-waster. The background knowledge of the patient’s case may be essential to being able to accurately and completely interpret for them.
  • Pediatric patients
    Pediatric patients, especially such patients with conditions that make it difficult for them to interact with others around strangers, can benefit from interpreter continuity as well. Rapport is key with many pediatric patients and their parents!
  • Patients with developmental disabilities
    Their unique case may require different interpreting strategies, and instead of having to start from square one at each appointment, a regular interpreter can formulate a cohesive plan to stick to, often in conjunction with the patient care team.
  • Patients with condition(s) that are of a sensitive nature (i.e. history of trauma)
    How would you feel opening up about a touchy topic with your healthcare provider or therapist with a different interpreter every time? Some issues are highly sensitive and having to share them repeatedly in front of strangers can be embarrassing or nerve-wracking. Patients who have a history of trauma may also be slower to open up around strangers, so once a level of rapport has been achieved with an interpreter, it may be worth it to keep them around.

I was recently booked for some long-term weekly repeating assignments for multiple patients, all with sequential reference numbers and while I was happy to have been booked so far out, I was not too thrilled with the prospect of inputting over 100 assignments manually into my Google Calendar. I knew there had to be a better way that would be a more efficient use of my time!

Why Not Create a Repeating Event in Google Calendar?
When creating a repeating event in Google calendar, it does not allow you to specify different names or assignment numbers for these events, which can be a HUGE issue when it comes to referencing assignments.

Why (and how!) I use Google Calendar

I work with more interpreting agencies than I can count on two hands, and each agency has its own system for tracking appointments. That’s why it’s important to have a centralized point of reference for interpreting assignments! It’s so easy to overbook appointments if you don’t have all your assignments at hand in an easy-to-read format.

Condensed view of my Google Calendar on my cell phone

Google calendar is a simple way for me to access my assignments from my phone or laptop, and my husband and I even have our calendars synced so I can be sure I’m also not interfering with his schedule either. Now more than ever, with my stepson home for virtual schooling, I have to make sure we’re coordinating our schedules.

Some of you may be balking at the fact that my husband can see my interpreting calendar. Am I sharing PHI with my husband and Google? What sort of information am I putting into my Google calendar entries?

  • Appointment Title: Agency Abbreviation and Reference Number
    For every interpreting assignment I add to my calendar, I start off with an abbreviation of the agency’s name, followed by the agency’s reference number for that assignment. For example: if I have an appointment with the agency Kelly’s Interpreting Agency and the reference number 678234, I’d input the appointment as “KIA #678234.” Reference numbers are an absolutely essential inclusion because that’s how you’re going to be able to access the appointment details!
  • Appointment Location
    I always include the address of the appointment, including any relevant suite numbers. This way if my husband needs to see where I’ll be or where I need to be at a certain time, he can get a better idea of how far away I am, how long it might take me to come back, etc.
  • Appointment Notes
    I do not include any patient PHI in the notes of my calendar. Typically if I’m going to a hospital, I’ll put what entrance I’ll be using, which again is super important these days since most hospitals are limiting their entrances due to COVID-19.
  • Appointment Start/End Times
    Almost all of my agencies book me for a minimum of 2 hours, so I make sure the entire time is blocked off appropriately in my calendar.

Why Agendas are a Bad Idea

I’ve seen a few interpreters using agendas or physical calendars to manually write down their interpreting assignments. I’ll be honest: I’m not a big fan of it at ALL. First off, if you lose that agenda, you’ve got to start all over. Secondly, many interpreters feel that since it isn’t a digital agenda, it’s more secure to write down patient PHI inside of it since it won’t be in the cloud. Both of these pitfalls can be disastrous if combined!

crop stylish woman writing in notebook
Y’all scare me when I see this. Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

I’ll only say this once: however you’re keeping track of your assignments, you should never include patient PHI in your calendar. Reference numbers to assignments are sufficient, and you should be able to check the assignment number in your interpreting agency’s platform for additional details. If the interpreting agency you work for does not have a dashboard that is user-friendly to easily look up assignment details, they often send you encrypted e-mails that you can easily look up by the assignment’s reference number.

Importing Bulk Repeat Interpreting Assignments

The beautiful thing about repeat appointments with the same patient(s) is that a lot of the information is going to be the same. They’ll usually be spaced apart at regular intervals (every week, every Monday and Wednesday, every 2 weeks, every third Thursday of the month), take place at the same time, take place at the same location(s), and even have sequential reference numbers. This is why it’s just silly to add these appointments manually to your Google calendar and tediously enter the same information over and over again.

Creating a .CSV File to Import

Google Calendar allows you to import .CSV or iCal files into your calendar. Personally, I prefer .CSV format because it’s universal and easy to create in a variety of programs like Excel or even Google Sheets. I’m more accustomed to Excel, so we’re going to create our .CSV file using this program, but almost all of these steps are pretty much the same in Sheets as well.

Creating the Columns

Google Calendar Help has a detailed list of different columns you can add for your bulk appointment list, including the following relevant fields:

  • Subject
  • Start Date
  • Start Time
  • End Date
  • End Time
  • Description
  • Location

So, all you have to do is create a blank document in Excel or Sheets and create columns with these titles to start off with:

Creating the columns

Adding the Repeating Assignments

I’m going to go through a simple example of repeating appointments and how to use some of Excel’s built-in features to make the job easier for you. What’s the point of bulk adding appointments if you’re just going to manually add the information anyways in a spreadsheet over and over again? Work smarter, not harder.

Example: Appointments Every Tuesday at 1PM for 3 months.

Let’s say with Kelly’s Interpreting Agency, you have appointments at the 123 Main Street office every Tuesday at 1 PM for the next 3 months. The first assignment number is 123456 and each assignment number increases sequentially.

Of course, you’ll want to save this file as a .CSV. The way to do that is to go to “File > Save As…” and select the destination for the file. Before clicking “Save” you’ll want to look at where is says “Save as Type” and select “CSV.”

How to Save as a .CSV file.

Importing the .CSV File Into Google Calendar

Google Calendar Help comes to the rescue again! Google already lays out in a simple way how to initiate the import process (on a computer):

  1. Open Google Calendar.
  2. In the top right, click Settings Settingsand then Settings.
  3. In the menu on the left, click Import & Export.
  4. Click Select file from your computer and select the file you exported. The file should end in “.ics” or “.csv.” Β 
  5. Choose which calendar to add the imported events to.
    • By default, events are imported into your primary calendar.
  6. Click Import.

All Done!

I used this process today to successfully import over 100 interpreting assignments over the next year. Of course, as the schedule becomes more complex, you have to do a little bit more editing to get it right, but anything beats having to re-type in the same or similar information hundreds of times!

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About the author

Kelly (Grzech) Henriquez

Kelly is a Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI-Spanish) through the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI). She works as an independent contractor in the greater Richmond, Virginia area as a Spanish-English medical interpreter and also specializes in mental health interpretation.

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KGH Interpretation Spanish-English Medical & Mental Health Interpretation

Kelly (Grzech) Henriquez

I am a Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI-Spanish) through the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI). I work as an independent contractor in the greater Richmond, Virginia area as a Spanish-English medical interpreter. I also specialize in mental health interpretation. Click here to read more about me.

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