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 great variation in quality. The NCIHC National Standards of Practice for Health Care Interpreters attempts to give clear, in-depth explanations of the many acceptable ways to accomplish the tasks of message reception and communication in a health care interpretation context. By contrast, the “Code of Ethics” works specifically with ethical choices, while the standards concern themselves with how interpreters can accomplish their complex array of tasks.

How the Standards Were Developed

The NCIHC went through a process of evaluating existing standards documents from around the United States, then conducted focus groups and surveys to further refine the commonalities they found. The resulting document was approved piece by piece with a very high percentage of respondents to the survey, which was collected from more than 600 interpreters, as well as 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 both the obvious need for correct translation of individual words, but also for other things, like conveying the tone and register of the original statement and making sure that individuals know that everything they say will indeed be translated. This can also extend to asking for clarification when the translator him or herself did 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 he or she needs in order to make his or her own decision, all while engaging in culturally appropriate signs of respect in all interactions.
  • Cultural Awareness – This standard involves knowing — as much as possible — the ways in which biomedical choices are conducted in each culture associated with an interpretation. This 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. This can be complicated when the interpreter is also performing another role, such as being a nurse, so the standards outline that all the duties of a nurse or other professional 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 as well as continuing to train, take courses, and refine one’s understanding of the languages in question.
  • Advocacy – Given the privileged 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.