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Certifying Bodies and Professional Organizations for Healthcare Interpreters

The NCIHC doesn't certify interpreters, but they make cool interpreter swag, like this!
The NCIHC is a professional organization, not a certifying body, and they advocate for equal access to healthcare for people of all languages.

Certifying bodies and professional organizations!  It’s not always clear who does what, so here’s a quick run-down of national certifying bodies and professional organizations:

National Board for Certified Medical Interpreters: One of two national certifying bodies that offers certification to interpreters who qualify.  When you have this certification, you have to maintain it by attending educational events that are approved for Continuing Education (CEs). Accepts CEs from RID, ATA, and IMIA.

Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters: One of two national certifying bodies that offers certification to interpreters who qualify.  When you have this certification, you have to maintain it by attending educational events that are approved for Continuing Education (CEs). Also has an accrediting branch, called the Continuing Education Accreditation Program that approves educational events for CEs.

National Council on Interpreting in Health Care: A multi-disciplinary professional organization that advocates for equality in healthcare access.  They published a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice for healthcare interpreters. They DO NOT certify interpreters.

International Medical Interpreters Association: Formerly the Massachusetts Medical Interpreter Association, an organization for professional medical interpreters and those who work with them.  They published a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice for healthcare interpreters. They DO NOT certify interpreters, but they have a CE approval program.

Cross Cultural Health Care Program: The organization that brings us Bridging the Gap.  When you finish BTG, you get a certificate of completion if you pass the final exam.  This is a certificate, and NOT a certification, so it does not need to be maintained with CEs.  It fills the 40-hour training requirement you need to apply for national certification (though the training requirement will likely be changed to 60 hours in the future). If you’re still confused about the difference between certificates and certifications, check out this post.

I hold certification through CCHI, and I also prepared my staff interpreters for the CCHI certification exams.  If you’re interested in national certification for healthcare interpreters, check out my take on interpreter exam prep in the posts I wrote about it here, here, and here!

I’ve included here info on just two national professional organizations.  Feel free to drop a line in the comments about your regional organization!

8 thoughts on “Certifying Bodies and Professional Organizations for Healthcare Interpreters”

  1. Hi, I am a college student in my senior year studying Spanish and I am looking to take my certification exam before I graduate. I was wondering if you could give me your opinion on taking the required 40 hr course online or at an institution. I have been looking at the curriculum on medicalinterpretertrainingschool.com vs taking Bridging the Gap through the University of Michigan Hospital, however I’m not quite sure which route to take.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Natasha! Taking an online or on-site course really depends on your needs. The chance to take the on-site BTG course at the University of Michigan would be great if that is accessible to you! That way, you’ll meet people connected with their interpreter services program, which would be advantageous to you if you aspire to work in that system. However, the online program may be more accessible to you, in that you don’t have to travel. That can be an advantage if you live far away from where the on-site course is being taught. Maybe one option meets your language needs better than the other. I have experience as an interpreter trainee and a trainer both on-site and online. Both options offer advantages, so you just have to figure out what your priorities are. Good luck!

      1. Thank you so much for your insight! My next question, I hope I’m not bothering you too much, is if you have had any experience with medicalinterpretertrainingschool.com or any other online programs that you would recommend!
        Thank you!

      2. Hi Natasha! I don’t have experience with this program in particular, though knowing that it’s endorsed on the CCHI website, it makes me think it has gone through some kind of vetting process and meets the NCIHC National Standards for Healthcare Interpreter Training. I have had overall good experiences with online training. There are pros and cons to both onsite and online, and the one you choose has to do with your needs as a learner and a trainee. For example, if you’re just starting out, I’d look for a program that gives you lots of chances to practice and receive feedback about your performance. It you’re a little more advanced, and you already know what your strengths and weaknesses are, a program with more self-evaluation could be appropriate. One advantage of online learning is of course the accessibility. I attended my first year of graduate school (for conference interpreting) online, and had a very good experience. The online classroom is changing for the better–in our dynamic virtual classroom, we were able to see each other, speak or use a chat box to share ideas, work in breakout groups for activities, and the instructor could type on the “whiteboard” and share slides for lecture. And of course, the online classroom allowed us to have instructors from all over the world teaching us–something that’s not possible in an onsite program. In that same vein, I gave a webinar over the summer, and because people attended virtually, it was accessible to a much larger audience.

        Decide what is important to you, and if you have doubts, contact the organization offering the training and ask questions!

  2. Hello! I really enjoyed writing your article. It was really helpful and interesting. I just finished my Medical Interpreter training and I’m planning to take either the National Board or CCHI test. I am really confused and I don’t know which one is the best. Could you please give me an advice? I’d like to take the National Board since I can take it from home. Every time that I have taken a test in a test site I get distracted by the noise and the voices of others when taking oral exams, which is something that affects my final grade. That is the main reason why I am thinking in not taking the CCHI test.

    1. Hi Cecilia! Thanks for reading and commenting. Both CCHI and NBCMI are valid exams, and recognized nationally and it’s your choice which one to go with. I chose CCHI for a few reasons, one of which is that I liked that it tests simultaneous interpreting, which I find I use quite a bit in the healthcare setting. Accessibility is an issue in test-taking, and if you think you’ll have a better result testing from home, then it’s worth considering NBCMI for that reason. Having said that, in my experience taking healthcare, court, and conference exams, the tests have always been administered in a quiet environment, without distractions for both written and oral exams. In fact, when the hospital where I used to work became a CCHI testing site for the oral exam, we were required to have a quiet, dedicated space with only one test taker at a time. You could always contact the testing center and ask what the surroundings are like. Good luck!

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