The standards of practice presented in the Medical Interpreting Standards of Practice created by the Massachusetts Medical Interpreters Association and Education Development Center, Inc. were adopted in October of 1995. The following excerpt is from the Introduction:
Standards of Practice
The Medical Interpreting Standards of Practice are founded on the premise that an interpreter's primary task is interpretation, that is, the transformation of a message expressed in a source language into its equivalent in a target language, so that the interpreted message has the potential of eliciting the same response in the listener as the original message (Seleskovitch, 1978; Cokely, 1088; Downing and Swabey, 1992). To be able to do this, the interpreters must not only be fluent in both the source and target languages but must also have the skills and knowledge base to be able to comprehend the message quickly in the source language and just as quickly re-express it in the target language.
If all that the provider and patient need to achieve the goals of the clinical encounter is this linguistic conversion, then simply providing such a conversion fulfills the interpreter's role. The standards, however, go beyond the skills of conversion and recognize the complexities of interpretation and the clinical interview. The medical encounter is a highly interactive process in which the provider uses language (the provider's and the patient's) as a powerful pool to understand, evaluate, and diagnose symptoms (Woloshin et al., 1995) and to mutually inform and instruct. The interpreter, therefore, cannot simply be a "black box converter" but must know how to engage both provider and patient effectively and efficiently in accessing the nuances and hidden socio-cultural assumptions embedded in each other's language, which could lead to dangerous consequences if left unexplored.
These standards of practice also recognize the importance of the medical encounter in establishing a therapeutic connection between provider and patient. The formulation of a therapeutic relationship is especially difficult when parties cannot communicate directly, and it becomes even more complex when different culturally based belief systems are involved. A competent interpreter can mediate these barriers by attending not only to the linguistic but also to the extra-linguistic aspects of communication.
The Medical Interpreting Standards of Practice are organized into three major task areas: (1) interpretation, (2) cultural interface, and (3) ethical behavior.
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