The Other Professional Expectations of Medical Interpreters


Frequently, discussions on interpreter ethics and standards of practice focus on, shall we say, the more practical side of facilitating communication and acting within the role of the interpreter: accuracy, impartiality, confidentiality, role boundaries, etc. All good things. Very important, to be sure. But did you know that the National Standards of Practice for Interpreters in Health Care (NCIHC, 2005) also outlines expectations such as “support[ing] the professional development of fellow interpreters” and “participat[ing] in organizations and activities that contribute to the development of the profession”? You are an exceptional interpreter, but how well are you doing – really doing – with these other professional expectations?

It’s worth noting that these are not called the National Standards of Practice for Interpreters in Health Care Who Have Many Years of Experience and an Abundance of Time on Their Hands.

New interpreters are not off the hook. You don’t have to wait until you’ve reached some magical milestone or professional anniversary to become involved.

Busy interpreters aren’t off the hook either. You don’t have to quit your job and family (please don’t quit your job or family!) to find the time to become involved; instead, take on something that is compatible with your other commitments.

Don’t let the “not enoughs” prevent you from getting involved. You know what I’m talking about: I’m not experienced enough, not smart enough, not outgoing enough, not [whatever] enough. Think about what your aptitudes are, how you can contribute, and make the first move.

Start small if you have to, but do start.

It might be on a national, regional, or local level. It might even be something within your department or company. Just do something to build up and strengthen the community of medical interpreter profession.

Need some more specific ideas? Here are a few to consider:

  • Mentor, officially or unofficially, another interpreter
  • Submit a proposal to present a workshop at a conference
  • (this is key) If your proposal is accepted, follow through on presenting
  • Contribute an article to an association publication or newsletter
  • Share resources, comment on a discussion, or start a discussion on a listserv or online group
  • Run for office
  • Apply to a committee
  • Respond to a survey
  • Volunteer your services for an event (i.e., staff a registration table at a conference, prepare attendee materials, etc.)

If you are reading this and thinking to yourself, “I’m already on two boards, one committee, and three advisory groups,” then the previous comments are not for you. The following message, however, is for you:

Thank you! Keep up the good work!

It is, indeed, good work. Whether you are very green or very ripe (pardon the imagery), let’s continue to blaze trails, spread wings, and grow roots. Together, let’s work to improve and strengthen the medical interpreter profession. Step by step.

What are you ready to commit to doing?

Posted on December 24, 2014 and filed under Interpreter.