How to Deal with Ethical Challenges in Medical Interpreting

How to Deal with Ethical Challenges in Medical Interpreting

Ethical Challenges in Medical Interpreting

Ethical Challenges in Medical InterpretingOne can imagine the ethical challenges faced by interpreters – after all, it is their primary job to objectively and clearly convey the words of two or more parties, regardless of what those words are. In medical interpreting, an interpreter can run into various privacy requirements (doctor – patient confidentiality for one) that require adhering to a certain code of ethics, and this isn’t to mention the actual code of ethics for medical interpreters outlined by the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC). Below are outlined some of the main requirements to be aware of, and how to best perform while still adhering to your own personal morals.


The Medical/Healthcare Interpreter’s Code of Ethics Medical Interpreting

The summarized standards below were outlined by the NCIHC in order to set a consistent and clear practice by which interpreters working in the medical and healthcare fields should adhere. They represent a much more in-depth set of requirements by which medical interpreters should practice. The aim of these standards is to further improve interpreter services offered by medical institutions.

  • Accuracy it is the medical / healthcare interpreter’s job to convey every exchange in a conversation. This includes every word as well as the tone given by the speaker.
  • Confidentiality – the medical / healthcare interpreter will do everything in their nature to keep sessions private – this includes no spoken or written correspondence of the meeting exchanged with anyone outside of the meeting.
  • Impartiality – interpreters will remain objective throughout their sessions, letting no bias (whether it is personal, cultural or otherwise) impact their conveying of speech between the involved parties.
  • Respect – a medical / healthcare interpreter will provide services in an appropriate manner, taking into account cultural customs and doctor/patient/interpreter autonomy.
  • Cultural Awareness – professional interpreters in the healthcare / medical field must be aware of cultural nuances– this includes everything from common medical practices to language specific phrases that could be misinterpreted.
  • Role of Boundaries – medical and healthcare interpreters are aware of the scope their work falls under, and do not attempt to provide advice or expertise in any way outside of questions relating to the practice of interpreting.
  • Professionalism – professional medical and healthcare interpreters are expected to abide by best practices for interpreters, show respect to all parties and be accountable and prepared for any meetings/sessions.
  • Professional Development – professional medical / healthcare interpreters are expected to always be improving their language and delivery skills, and to stay up to date with the medical/healthcare industry.
  • Advocacy – although an interpreter should not personally intervene in normal sessions, if he or she sees an immediate risk to one of the parties involved (overlooking of life-threatening conditions) or notices a pattern of disrespect to a party, he/she can report it to the appropriate source.


How Do You Remain Ethical Both Personally and as a Medical/Healthcare Interpreter?

Healthcare Interpreter Objectivity is the key answer to the question above. A medical / healthcare interpreter must always remember that they are providing a service for someone else, and that personal judgment must not come in the way of that. This judgment can be anything from disagreeing with a client’s chosen method of procedure, to personal feelings about a client’s condition. At the end of the day an interpreter is there to bridge a language gap between two parties – not to provide insight on a situation in which he/she is not qualified for or personally involved in. If personal morals become a hindrance to delivering these services, medical / healthcare interpreting may not be the best profession.


Learning how to be a Medical / Healthcare Interpreter

This objectivity, along with the ethics described earlier, take practice. Staying up to date with the medical industry can be done individually; however, ensuring that you’re delivering your services in the most ethical way possible takes training. Medical interpreter training courses not only provide you with an industry knowledge base (key vocabulary and phrases), but also with training in interpreter’s best practices that will prepare you to pass the National Board Exam – required to earn Certified Medical Interpreter Credentials (CMI).

Get the necessary, in person training, learn about medical interpreter ethics and get the skills needed to become a certified Medical Interpreter, with our Medical Interpreter Training Program.

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