The Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) announced the first group of Certified and Associate Healthcare Interpreters this week! This is quite a milestone in healthcare interpreting. In the past, the highest nationally recognized program for healthcare interpreter credentials was through a very well-known training program in the industry called Bridging the Gap. Although Bridging the Gap is still very much a valid and extensive training program with a successful turnout of well-trained healthcare interpreters, the new national certification through CCHI is expected to be the new bar set for interpreters to reach. CCHI launched the pilot exam in the late fall last year. Now, there is a list of 130 Certified and 105 Associate Healthcare Interpreters through this organization. By further allowing interpreters to gain education, training and certification, the Certification Commission is showing the nation that hiring an interpreter who is not really a trained interpreter, but rather, an employee's friend or family member, is not a good idea. In fact, many healthcare organizations are still allowing for patients to bring in family members or friends to interpret. Or, they look for the nurse that speaks Spanish to interpret for the Spanish-speaking patient who has an appointment today. This is not, and never should be, okay. For patient privacy purposes, a family member (unless already authorized to obtain the patient's medical information) should not be allowed to know something about the patient's medical condition before she/he does. A child should never have to interpret for his parent in a situation dealing with healthcare. Another healthcare specialist should also not be interpreting for a patient. He/she is not trained to be an interpreter. Sure, the nurse probably knows the terminology in English because she uses it every day, but this doesn't mean she knows it in the patient's language. Physicians should also be wary of the fact that some healthcare specialists (whether a nurse, a technician or another physician) may decide to tell the patient what they feel is best for his/her care instead of what the physician really stated.
Think about it. A patient comes in to see her general practitioner. She doesn't realize that she has a right to an interpreter according to the Title VI law and decides to bring her child with her. The woman's complaints lead the doctor to believe that she has a tumor. In what setting is it okay for a child to have to relay this message to his mother? Obviously, in this situation, without an interpreter present, the child has no choice. But how does the physician and his/her colleagues know that the child is using the proper terminology? How can one expect a child to do this? You'd be surprised. It happens all the time...although that doesn't make it right.
The Certification Commission should be commended for their endless hours of preparation for the national certification process. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of a long line of Certified and Associate Healthcare Interpreters to come!
For more information on CCHI's certification, please visit the CCHI website.