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The Role of the Medical Interpreter

The role of the medical interpreter is complex and multi-faceted. Please refer below to two working papers from the National Council on Interpreting in Healthcare (NCIHC).

Some Definitions (From NCIHC web site)

A person who renders a message spoken in one language into a second language, and who abides by a code of professional ethics.

The process of understanding and analyzing a spoken or signed message and re-expressing that message faithfully, accurately and objectively in another language, taking the cultural and social context into account.  The purpose of interpreting is to enable communication between two or more individuals who do not speak each otherís languages.

Medical Interpreting
Interpreting that takes place in medical settings of any sort, including doctorís offices, clinics, hospitals, home health visits, mental health clinics, and public health presentations.  Typically the setting is an interview between a healthcare provider (doctor, nurse, lab technician) and a patient (or the patient and one or more family members).

Professional Interpreter
An individual with appropriate training experience who is able to interpret with consistency and accuracy and who adheres to a code of professional ethics.

The conversion of a written text into a corresponding written text in a different language.

Working Papers

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As a rule, working papers are drafted by a committee of experts, or sometimes by a single expert at the request of a committee.  The content of the papers often reflects discussions held by the NCIHC as a whole.  The draft is then reviewed by the entire board, whose input is integrated into the final product.  These documents are works in progress and represent the current best thinking in the field; they may be adapted in the future, however, as the field grows and thinking matures.
"The Role of the Healthcare Interpreter: An Evolving Dialogue" By Maria-Paz Beltran Avery, Ph.D., April 2001
"Guide to Initial Assessment of Interpreter Qualifications" April 2001
For a listing of all of NCIHCís working papers


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