Standards of practice are a set of guidelines that define what an interpreter does in the perform- ance of his or her role, that is, the tasks and skills the interpreter should be able to perform in the course of fulfilling the duties of the profession. Standards describe what is considered “best practice” by the profession and ensure a consistent quality of performance. For health care inter- preters, the standards define the acceptable ways by which they can meet the core obligations of their profession – the accurate and complete transmission of messages between a patient and provider who do not speak the same language in order to support the patient-provider therapeutic relationship.

As in all professions, the field of interpreting is guided by ethical principles. These standards for health care interpreters show how professional interpreters respond to ethical and other considerations in the performance of their duties. Standards of practice are concerned with the “hows” of performance as compared with codes of ethics that focus on the “shoulds.” A code of ethics provides “a set of principles or values that govern the conduct of members of a profession while they are engaged in the enactment of that profession.”5 In other words, codes of ethics provide “guidelines for making judgments about what is acceptable and desirable behavior in a given context or in a particular relationship”6 while standards focus on the practical concerns of what the interpreter does in the performance of his or her role, offering “best practice” strategies for observing the principles of the code of ethics in day-to-day practice. 


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