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Standards of Practice for the Health Care Interpreter

Standards of practice are one of the ways that an industry can hold everyone to a high quality of service, increasing the reputation of the entire body of workers rather than admitting significant variation in quality. The National Standards of Practice for Interpreters in Health Care (NCIHC) attempts to give clear, in-depth explanations of the many acceptable ways to accomplish the tasks of message reception and communication in a healthcare interpretation context. By contrast, the “Code of Ethics” works specifically with ethical choices, while the standards concern how interpreters can accomplish complex tasks.

How the Standards Were Developed

The NCIHC evaluated existing standards documents from around the United States, then conducted focus groups and surveys to refine further the commonalities they found. The resulting document was approved piece by piece with a very high percentage of respondents to the survey, collected from more than 600 interpreters and others connected to the profession.

The Actual Practice Standards

The standards are each outlined in extensive detail, with examples of what is included. In general, they are:

  • Accuracy – This standard involves the apparent need for the correct translation of individual words and other things, like conveying the tone and register of the original statement ensuring that individuals know what they say will be translated. It can also extend to asking for clarification when the translator does not understand, making it clear that any conferring with a single party is done in service of the understanding of all.
  • Confidentiality – This standard focuses on remembering how important it is to never share patient or medical professional information outside of the privileged relationship between those two parties and to safeguard any written materials against exposure to other people.
  • Impartiality – Recognizing that an interpreter must not take sides, this standard allows for acknowledging and working around one’s cultural biases or excusing oneself from an assignment if it is impossible to translate objectively.
  • Respect – This standard focuses on giving the patient everything they need to make their own decision, all while engaging in culturally appropriate signs of care in all interactions.
  • Cultural Awareness – This standard involves knowing — as much as possible — how biomedical choices are conducted in each culture associated with an interpretation. It can include attempting to resolve cultural misunderstandings between medical professionals and patients when such confusion does occur.
  • Role Boundaries – This standard holds up the value that interpreters should not overstep into offering medical advice and should limit personal connection to those for whom they interpret. However, it can complicate the process when the interpreter is also performing another role. As a result, if you perform multiple functions, all professional duties must be completed in addition to adhering to the standards of interpretation.
  • Professionalism – This standard involves many of the standards of any high-quality professional, including being prompt, prepared, accountable, and acknowledging skill limitations if they are part of the situation.
  • Professional Development – This standard involves seeking feedback from more experienced individuals in the field and continuing to train, take courses, and refine one’s understanding of the languages in question.
  • Advocacy – Given the confidential nature of the relationship, the interpreter has the right and responsibility to speak out in cases of abuse or wrongdoing or to prevent harm if they believe it is likely to occur or has occurred.

Are you in need of a high-quality Health Care Interpreter? Contact us today to learn more.



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