Wisconsin, like most states, does not license, certify or regulate medical interpreters. This was one of the long-term issues that WCLAH was addressing. In 2005, WCLAH received a grant from the University of Wisconsin’s Wisconsin Partnership Fund for a Healthy Future to develop a pilot assessment tool for medical interpreters. The project has concluded, but the website remains up-to-date.
National Code of Ethics and National Standards of Practice for Interpreters
As the profession of healthcare interpreting in the United States matures and evolves, the importance of creating shared understandings of what is considered high quality and ethically appropriate principles and practices in the field becomes imperative. To this end, the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC) identified three steps that needed to take place on a national level in order to standardize the expectations that the healthcare industry and patients should have of interpreters and to raise the quality of healthcare interpreting.
The first step was to create and build support for a single Code of Ethics that would guide the practice of interpreters working in healthcare venues. The second step was to develop a nationally accepted, unified set of Standards of Practice based on the Code of Ethics that would define competent practice in the field. The third step was to create a national certification process that would set a standard for qualification as a professional healthcare interpreter.
The first step was completed in July, 2004, when NCIHC published A National Code of Ethics for Interpreters in Health Care.
The second step came to fruition in October, 2005, when NCIHC published the National Standards of Practice for Interpreters in Health Care, the first such national standards for medical interpreting professionals in the United States.
Co-funded by The Commonwealth Fund and The California Endowment, the standards were developed through a national consensus-building process that included focus groups and surveys of hundreds of working healthcare interpreters from across the United States over a two-year period. This is the first set of national standards of practice developed by professionals in medical interpreting.
The NCIHC’s National Standards of Practice are designed to help improve the quality and consistency of interpreting in healthcare. Just like clinical protocols for physicians, these new standards will provide guidance as to what is expected of healthcare interpreters and what constitutes good practice.
Complete copies of the National Code of Ethics and National Standards of Practice document can be downloaded from the NCIHC website.