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Medical Interpreting Certification in the United States: a comparison

A big thanks to Caduceus for letting us share this wonderful article! It originally appeared in the Summer 2016 issue and is written by our ID Leadership Council member Helen Eby. Thank you Helen for compiling this useful information that will prove a valuable tool for end users of professional medical interpreters, while benefiting the interpreting community at the same time. Enjoy!

Lorena Ortiz Schneider, e-Voice Editor

By Helen Eby

[stethoscope]

Competency-based assessments are the foundation of credentialing in many professions, one of which is interpreting. According to the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), an assessment instrument is any one of several standardized methods for determining if candidates possess the necessary knowledge and skills related to the purpose of the certification. Professional certification is therefore a voluntary process and is bestowed by an organization granting recognition to an individual who has met certain eligibility requirements and successfully completed a rigorous assessment based on a job task analysis.

Interpreter certification is akin to licensure in many other professions such as psychology, occupational therapy, social work, professional counseling, architecture, or nursing. In the United States, there are three certifying bodies for medical interpreters: NBCMI, CCHI and DSHS/LTC (see chart below). Interpreters will have to choose which certification to pursue based on their working languages, the availability of testing sites, the delivery modality (on-site v. remote interpreting) and the applicable federal and state laws and regulations. In the State of Oregon, the Oregon Health Authority is the government agency responsible for regulating medical interpreters.

Terminology used in the chart below
LOTE Languages other than English
>  into
from
approved Approved activities/training means trainings or activities that meet the requirements of the certification bodies for continuing education purposes. Please refer to the website of each certification body for full details, which are beyond the scope of this document.

 

Please note that the following chart is a summary, since a complete listing of all details would be beyond the scope of this article. For further details, please go to the website of each certifying body, listed below.

 

NBCMI

National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters

CCHI

Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters

DSHS/LTC

Department of Social & Health Services/Language Testing and Certification Program

Washington State

TYPE OF CERTIFYING BODY
Private: a division of a trade association (International Medical Interpreters Association) Private: a vendor neutral nonprofit corporation Public: a state government agency
YEAR CERTIFICATION PROGRAM BEGAN
2012 NCCA accreditation obtained 2012 NCCA accreditation obtained 1995
CERTIFIED LANGUAGES
Spanish

Mandarin

Russian

Cantonese

Korean

Vietnamese

Spanish

Mandarin

Arabic

Spanish

Mandarin

Russian

Cantonese

Korean

Vietnamese

Cambodian (Khmer)

Laotian

PREREQUISITES
18 years of age
High school diploma or equivalent
Proof of language proficiency: each certifying body has slightly different requirements. None
WRITTEN EXAM
  • Medical Terminology & Specialties
  • Medical Interpreter Ethics, Standards of Practice & Roles
  • Cultural Competence
  • Legislation and Regulations
  • Manage an Interpreting Encounter
  • Healthcare Terminology
  • Interact with Other Healthcare Professionals and Prepare for an Interpreting Encounter
  • Cultural Responsiveness
  • Interpreter Ethics
  • Language Proficiency in English & LOTE
  • Medical Terminology & Procedures in English & LOTE
  • Translation (multiple choice format)
ORAL EXAM
Consecutive interpreting

Sight translation English > LOTE

Consecutive interpreting

Simultaneous interpreting

Sight Translation English > LOTE

Translation of healthcare documents (multiple choice format)

Sight translation English <> LOTE (2 passages)

Consecutive interpreting English <> LOTE

OVERALL PASSING RATE
75% 74% 36-38%
MANDATORY TRAINING FOR ACCREDITATION
40 hours of approved training (pre-requisite) 2 hours of ethics

2 hours of new medical interpreter orientation

CONTINUING EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS TO MAINTAIN THE CREDENTIAL
30 hours of approved training every 5 years 16 hours every 2 years, totaling 32 hours every 4 years

20 hours of documented work every two years, totaling 40 hours in 4 years

20 hours every 4 years of approved activities of which 1 hour of approved ethics per calendar year, totaling 4 hours of ethics in four years.
MANDATORY TRAINING COST
Estimated $320 – $800 None
APPLICATION FEE
$35 $35 None
WRITTEN EXAM FEE
$175 $175 $30
ORAL EXAM FEE
$275 $275 $45
CREDENTIAL RENEWAL FEE
$300 $300 None

 

Sources

Interpreter certification and skills maintenance as key elements of quality assurance, Natalya Mytareva, Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters, June 17, 2015: http://www.cchicertification.org/images/webinars/2015-06-17-cchi_certification-quality_assurance.pdf

Candidate’s Examination Handbook, Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters, July 2014: http://www.cchicertification.org/images/pdfs/candidatehandbook.pdf

Certification page, National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters Certification page:

http://www.certifiedmedicalinterpreters.org/getcertified

Certified Medical Interpreter Candidate Handbook, The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters, 2014: http://www.certifiedmedicalinterpreters.org//sites/default/files/national-board-candidate-handbook.pdf

Study Materials, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services Study materials:

https://www.dshs.wa.gov/fsa/language-testing-and-certification-program/study-materials

Law regulating occupations and professions in Oregon: http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/volume/15

Law that governs healthcare interpreting in Oregon: http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/413.550

NCCA accreditation is renewable every 5 years. Registration listed on this site: http://www.credentialingexcellence.org/p/cm/ld/fid=121 Link verified Sept 26, 2016.

Standards for Registry Enrollment, Qualification, and Certification of Health Care Interpreters: http://arcweb.sos.state.or.us/pages/rules/oars_300/oar_333/333_002.html

Health Care Interpreter Program, Office of Equity and Inclusion: http://www.oregon.gov/oha/oei/Pages/HCI-Program.aspx

*Oregon requires 60 hours of healthcare interpreter training and has a list of preapproved training programs.

Affordable Care Act Non-discrimination in Healthcare Programs and Activities http://ostiweb.org/about/federal-regulations-for-translation-and-interpreting-in-medical-settings/

Enhanced CLAS Standards Blueprint, April 2013, http://blog.gauchatranslations.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/EnhancedCLASStandardsBlueprint.pdf. The Joint Commission follows the CLAS Standards closely, though they are not a regulation.

Sources for overall passing rate

National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters Examination Summary Statistics: 2009, 2010, and 2011

CCHI 2014 Annual Report: Setting the Standard for Quality in Healthcare Interpreting

Fu, Hungling. State of Washington DSHS Medical Interpreter Certification, presented at UMTIA. June 2007


 

[Helen Eby]

Helen Eby is the founding President of the Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters, the trainer of one of the programs approved by the Oregon Health Authority to meet the training prerequisites for Qualification and Certification, and a member of the Oregon Council on Health Care Interpreters–which advises the Oregon Health Authority on administrative rules and policy standards for the Health Care Interpreter Program. Helen Eby is also a medical and court interpreter certified by CCHI, NBCMI, the Oregon State Courts, and the Oregon Health Authority. Additionally, she holds a Certificate in Translation from New York University and works as a translator of medical documents.

 

Image by WerneFabrik via pixabay.com

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ata-divisions.org/ID/medical-interpreting-certification-in-the-united-states-a-comparison/

2 comments

1 ping

  1. Yanyi Connor

    Of the three certifications for medical interpreters, would you please advise their level of recognition, popularity and importance?

  2. Helen Eby

    Washington State: It is administered only in Washington State, so… it has a local reach. It was instituted before either of the others, and covers more languages.
    NBCMI and CCHI: Each one tests different skills. NBCMI, in my opinion, tests what you would need for remote appointments, since it excludes Simultaneous Interpreting and Translation (tested by CCHI). However, you have to make a choice based on your language, the availability of CE credits in your area, and other factors. I will not speak to which is more popular, because the last time I checked both of the national certifying bodies had a similar amount of interpreters certified.
    Walking the halls of the IMIA interpreting conference a couple of years ago, I remember hearing that organizations that worked mostly with certified interpreters had a lot less problems with their service than organizations that didn’t. They weren’t specifying what certification board was involved in these conversations.

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