Practice guidelines for healthcare interpreters

Standards of practice are one way the industry can ensure that all staff working for large healthcare logistics companies are held to high standards of service, thereby improving the reputation of the whole workforce rather than allowing significant variations in quality. The National Standards of Practice for Healthcare Interpreters (NCIHC) aim to provide clear, in-depth descriptions of the many appropriate approaches to message reception and communication in the context of healthcare interpreting. The “Code of Ethics” refers to ethical decisions, and the standards refer to how interpreters can carry out their complex and varied responsibilities.

What process was used to develop the standards?

NCIHC conducted focus groups and surveys to better define the similarities they discovered by examining existing standards documents from across the United States. The final document was adopted piecemeal by a large number of survey respondents, which included more than 600 interpreters and others associated with the profession.

Actual Practice Guidelines

Each of the criteria is described in great depth, including examples of what is covered. They are, in general:

Accuracy – This criteria encompasses not only the apparent necessity for accurate translation of individual words, but also additional factors such as expressing the original statement’s tone and register and ensuring that people understand that whatever they say will be translated. This can also include asking for clarification when the translator does not understand, demonstrating that any communication with a single party is done in the interest of everyone’s comprehension.

  • Confidentiality – This standard emphasizes the need of never disclosing patient or medical professional information outside of the privileged connection between those two parties, as well as safeguarding any written files from unauthorized access.
  • Impartiality – Recognizing that an interpreter must remain neutral, this criterion allows for admitting and working with cultural prejudices, as well as excusing oneself from a task if objective translation is impossible.
  • Respect – This criterion focuses on providing the patient with all of the information he or she requires to make an informed decision, while also demonstrating culturally appropriate respect in all interactions.
  • Cultural Awareness – This requirement entails understanding — to the extent feasible — how biomedical decisions are made in each culture linked with an interpretation. When cultural misconceptions arise, this might involve working to reconcile them between medical personnel and patients.
  • Role Boundaries – This guideline emphasizes the need of interpreters not delivering medical advice and keeping personal connections to individuals for whom they interpret to a minimum.
  • Professionalism – This standard encompasses many of the standards of any high-quality professional, including being prompt, prepared, accountable, and acknowledging skill limitations if they exist. It can be complicated when the interpreter is also performing another role, such as being a nurse, so the standards outline that all of the duties of a nurse or other professional must be completed in addition to adhering to the standards of interpretation.
  • Professional Development – Seeking input from more experienced persons in the area, as well as continuing to train, attend courses, and enhance one’s grasp of the languages in issue, are all part of this criteria.
  • Because of the privileged nature of the connection, the interpreter has the right and obligation to speak up in situations of abuse or misconduct, as well as to prevent damage if they feel it is about to happen or has already happened.

Charles Crawford

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