What are standards? (general)

According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, a standard is “an acknowledged measure of comparison for quantitative or qualitative value.”  In other words, standards are criteria on which a judgment or decision can be based.  Many professions develop standards to set and maintain high quality and rigor in the practice of that profession.

Why do we need standards? (general)

Standards are often developed to guide the design of services, processes and programs to meet and to assure quality control and accountability.  Standards help ensure a uniform set of expectations that are publicly known.

Why are standards for training programs necessary?

Standards for training programs will provide guidance to everyone involved with language access in healthcare – trainers, employers, interpreters, and ultimately, the patients and providers who depend on their services.

  • Standards for training programs will help curriculum developers know what to include in an interpreter training; that is, the standards will identify the essential areas of knowledge and skills necessary for the competent practice of healthcare interpreting.  The standards will also provide guidance on which instructional methods have been shown to be effective for the acquisition of the required skills and knowledge.
  • Standards for training programs will help interpreters know whether the training they receive will adequately prepare them for the work they will be performing and give them confidence that they are well-prepared.
  • Standards for training programs will help employers know what to expect from interpreters who have completed training programs that meet the standards.
  • Standards for training programs will also help patients and providers by assuring them that interpreters who complete training programs which meet these guidelines will have been exposed to a high quality and rigorous program of study.

In addition, standards for training programs will continue NCIHC’s five step strategy for the advancement of the profession of healthcare interpreting.

  1. Agreement on the role of the healthcare interpreter.
  2. National Code of Ethics  
  3. National Standards of Practice
  4. National Standards for Training Programs
  5. Inform the development of national certification

What level of expertise will the standards address?

These standards are for training programs that focus on the teaching and learning required for entry-level competence.  However, in the process of developing these standards we made a deliberate and rigorous examination of what needs to be in place to raise the expectations for and the level of competence of an entry-level healthcare interpreter.

How do standards for training programs relate to certification?

The research that was conducted as part of the process for the development of the national standards for healthcare interpreter training programs was designed also to inform the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters’ national certification development process. This will ensure that the level of expertise reflected in the standards for training programs, and the level of expertise that will be measured through the CCHI national certification process will be aligned with each other.

How were the standards developed?

The standards for training programs were developed using multiple data sources and steps to ensure that the final product is based on the best available expertise and research on effective practices. As in the development of the National Code of Ethics and the National Standards of Practice a national information-gathering process was used to understand the status of interpreter training in the country today.  However, unlike those previous efforts, the standards of training was not based simply on an analysis of what core competencies and body of knowledge are being taught today. Instead the intent of the development process for the standards for training was to raise the level of rigor in the teaching of interpreting skills in order to consequently raise the level of competency in those completing these training programs.

To do this, we looked closely at what is known about effective methods of training for skill building and knowledge acquisition in adult populations.  Healthcare interpreting encompasses a highly complex set of linguistic and interpersonal skills utilized in a highly complex context; we want to ensure that the standards for training take this into account.  For that reason, we  also convened a panel of experts not only in healthcare interpreter training but also in related fields such as linguistics and adult education to assist in the development of the standards. These Standards will be developed in concert and collaboration with NCIHC-supported national certification efforts.

Are the standards for training be normative or descriptive?

The standards for training are normative and reflect a definition of competence that sets high standards of performance.  However, we also expect that, as with the development of any profession, there will be an evolution of growth over time.  For now, our intent is to create a normative set of standards of training that raises the expectations for what a competent entry-level interpreter should know and be able to do, and that raises the expectations for what a quality training program looks like, recognizing that the expertise in healthcare interpreter training is still limited across the country.

What were the steps in this process to develop the standards for training programs?

Here are the steps we followed:

1.  Found out what is already known (completed November 30, 2009)through a review process

  •  Setting standards for training in other fields
  •  Effective methods of training
  •  Healthcare interpreter competencies

This was done through a literature review of existing healthcare interpreter training programs, a global job task analysis, and a series of focus groups held around the country.

2.  Formed a Project Advisory Group

A Project Advisory Group was convened, including experts with extensive experience in different fields relevant to the training of interpreters.

3.  Draft Standards
The NCIHC Standards, Training and Certification Committee (STC) with the Project Advisory Group drafted an initial version of the standards, based on the information gathered.

4.  Gathered feedback from interpreters, trainers and administrators
Two national on-line surveys – one for interpreters and one for trainers – were used to obtain feedback on the draft standards.

5.  Revised and finalized the Standards
The STC reconvened the Project Advisory Group to review, revise and finalize the standards, based on the survey results.

6.  Disseminate the Standards
The Standards have been made and will continue to be available to interpreters, trainers, educational institutions, and employers via website, email and hard copy.

Do the standards apply to both training and educational/academic programs?

Yes, the standards apply to both training and educational/academic programs. While there may be differences in scope and approach between training programs and broader academic programs of interpreter education, the standards of training we developed are intended to set a minimum but rigorous set of expectations about what an entry-level interpreter should know and be able to do, and to provide criteria against which to judge whether a training or educational program is able to meet these expectations. All training and educational programs should meet these standards at a minimum.

Do these standards apply to dual-role interpreters as well as contracted/dedicated interpreters?

These standards are for training programs. Our goal is to ensure that all training programs include the minimum knowledge and skills that an entry-level, competent interpreter should have without regard to the type of position the interpreter will assume.  As with the National Code of Ethics and the National Standards of Practice, we do not make a distinction between what is expected of a contracted/dedicated interpreter and a dual-role interpreter in their practice of the interpreting function.

 What happens if I have already gone through a training program and the program does not meet the standards?

The training you have already received will continue to be of value to you.  However, by reviewing the standards for training programs you will be able to get an idea of the areas in which you may need additional training to ensure that you have covered all the recommended content and acquired all the essential skills.

What will happen to training programs that do not meet the standards?

The standards will provide guidance for the kind of improvements a training program would wish to make. 

If the training program meets these standards, does it mean that the program is accredited by NCIHC?

No, the fact that a training program meets the standards does not mean that the program is accredited by the NCIHC. At the moment, the NCIHC does not have plans to develop an accreditation process.  An accreditation process would require a formal and intensive review process to determine whether or not a program is meeting the prescribed standards at a desired level of quality.  

If I complete a training program that meets the standards, does that mean that I am certified as an interpreter?

No, simply completing a training program that meets the standards does not mean that you are certified as an interpreter.  Once national certification is available, you will still need to complete the certification requirements regardless of what training or educational program you have completed.

If I am looking for a training program and I find one that meets the training standards, what will that tell me?

If you find a training program that meets the standards, you will know that you will be receiving the basic required content and be exposed to the basic required skills needed by an entry-level healthcare interpreter, and that the program is using the instructional techniques that have been found to be most effective in imparting the necessary content and skills. However, the standards will not ensure the quality by which the training has been delivered. This is why, once national certification is available, you will still need to be assessed through the national certification process.

If I am an employer and I have an applicant who completed a training program that complied with the standards, what will that tell me?

If the applicant has completed a training program that complies with the standards, you will know that the applicant has been exposed to the required basic knowledge and skills that an entry-level healthcare interpreter should have and that the program has used instructional techniques that have been found to be effective in imparting such knowledge and skills.  However, it will not tell you what the level of competency of the applicant is.  You will still want to do an assessment of their skills.

If I am a curriculum developer or an interpreting instructor, will the standards tell me what and how to teach?

The standards will provide you with guidance on what the areas of knowledge and skill are that you need to cover in your curriculum or course.  The standards will also provide you with guidance on the instructional methodologies that are best suited to imparting those areas of knowledge and skill and that are most likely to lead to the desired level of skills that an entry level healthcare interpreter should have.  However, it will not provide you with a detailed curriculum – you will still need to decide what and how you will teach, how you need to assess what your students have learned, and what your criteria for successful completion will be.

Where can I get the National Standards for Healthcare Interpreter Training Programs?

Please click here to open the document.

If you have questions, contact NCIHC’s Standards and Training Committee:
[email protected] 

 If you are a trainer and want resources to help you in meeting the Standards please check out the Home for Trainers by clicking here.