Code of Ethics for Health Care Interpreters

The health care industry must always outline ethics clearly due to the fact that significant harm can arise from cutting corners or other forms of ethical violation. For this reason, the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC) has a robust document explaining the ethical responsibilities of a health care interpretation professional. ISI Language Solutions consistently abides by the Code of Ethics and considers it an important document in the creation and promotion of our services.

The Core Values

In order to construct ethical guidelines, there must be agreed-upon values to which the ethics adhere. In this case, the NCIHC standards focus on beneficence (causing positive outcomes), fidelity (doing what one says they will do) and respect for the importance of culture and cultural difference (not privileging one cultural understanding of health over others and instead striving to create excellent communication in between and across cultures).

Interpreters must see themselves as responsible for respecting both the medical professionals they work with as well as the patients they assist, who may be from a wide variety of cultural understandings and display cultural variation. Interpreters train and continue to develop their skills specifically in understanding the words spoken as well as any cultural frames that contribute to the meaning of those words. Their comprehension of a cultural difference allows them to create space for understanding between the patient and the medical professional, such that both have all the facts and context, and can make their own decisions about how to move forward.

The Importance of Ethics for Health Care Interpreters

Ethics allows health care interpreters to accomplish a variety of goals, including:

  • Making patients feel that he or she is being attentive and responsive to their needs.
  • Allowing for effective communication that truly conveys meaning.
  • Parties feel that the interpreter is fair and impartial, which makes them more comfortable with the three-party exchange of information that must occur in health care interpretation.

Ethical Guidelines for Interpreters

While individual health care interpreters may hold themselves to even higher standards of ethical behavior, these standards are expected to govern all health care interpreters, and we at ISI work to always uphold them.

  • Interpreters honor the patient’s privacy through careful maintenance of confidentiality, even when necessary among the patient’s friends or family members who are nearby during interpretation contexts.
  • Accurately interpreting all information. Rather than editorializing or modifying a message, the interpreter will convert messages fully, even if they involve elements that are hard to hear. It can also require them to interpret rude, irrelevant, or otherwise tangential information to remain in good faith as an interpreter of all that is being conveyed. This may be accompanied by introductory or concluding remarks that convey the interpreter’s role clearly as one who will interpret absolutely everything that is said.
  • Interpreters must keep their focus on health care, regardless of the personal biases or beliefs that may arise when encountering the biomedical views of other people. Interpreters steadfastly convey messages between patients and medical professionals even if they disagree with a behavior. Only in the case of miscommunication do they pause and work to rectify the clarity of the conversation.
  • Interpreters maintain professional boundaries, not creating personal involvements with medical professionals or patients who are working with them. This also means remaining accountable for one’s actions, staying organized, and being honest and clear in all communication related to setting up meetings or interpretation settings.
  • Interpreters, above all, treat all parties with respect, including the patient’s friends and family, and the medical professional’s other staff.

ISI Language Solutions holds our professional staff to a high standard of ethics. If you are in need of health care interpretation, contact us today.