We’ve been asked the question about the importance of accreditation for CCHI many times this year. This is the response from Natalya Mytareva, CCHI’s Executive Director:
I want to start with a brief background about my role at CCHI. I was one of the 13 volunteer Commissioners who founded CCHI in 2009, then I was CCHI’s Chair in 2012-2013, and since October 2013 I’m CCHI’s Executive Director which is a full-time staff position. So, I have a historic perspective on this issue.
When we just formed CCHI, many of us were practicing interpreters and managers of interpreting services, and we were passionate about bringing the professionalism of interpreters to the same level as that of any healthcare providers. It ultimately means that we believed then and continue to believe now, that the medical interpreter profession is as complex and as important as that of a physician or a high-skilled nurse. It takes 6-10 years for a person to acquire non-native language skills at the level needed to interpret, i.e. the same time it takes to become a physician or a specialty nurse. So, if we, interpreters, deem ourselves to be equal to physicians and nurses, we should apply the same standards to ourselves if we truly want them to recognize us as equal members of the care team. As you know, all (or almost all) healthcare providers have certification or licensure requirements, and such certifications are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). NCCA, the accreditation arm of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, was actually founded in the mid-70’s to review and accredit different healthcare certification programs. For this reason, when we started designing our exams in 2009, we started following NCCA’s best practices and standards so that we could get their accreditation later on. And in 2012, we got our CHI™-Spanish certification accredited with NCCA, and then in 2014 – we accredited the CoreCHI™ certification.
Another reason for our decision was, what I call, common sense. For any process or program to be valid, it needs to follow established practices and “rules.” In the field of testing, these practices require continuous psychometric monitoring of the test performance and continuous updates of the test content based on the current professional practice in the field. And any monitoring has validity only when it is done by a third party. If we expect that an interpreter’s performance needs to be evaluated by someone beyond self-evaluation, then a certification program needs to be evaluated by someone other than the organization or its contractor who is paid by the organization. Otherwise, everyone just has to trust my words that I am doing the monitoring, and everything is going well. That’s why NCCA, as a neutral third party whose sole business is evaluating various testing programs, is in the best position to monitor our program.
We believe that accreditation is a continuous process that pushes us to evolve and do our best all the time. It is that high bar which we want to continuously meet. Why would we want to lower the once-achieved standards? CCHI submits annual reports about its exams to NCCA and undergoes a reaccreditation every 5 years. The reaccreditation process is actually more stringent than the initial accreditation, because we need to demonstrate that in the past years we actually adhered to their standards in everything, from the organization’s governance, independence and finances to how we conduct national job-task analysis, involve practicing interpreters in test development, apply equal testing standards to all candidates, and how our exams are performing psychometrically.
Lastly, I think we at CCHI are just driven by the passion “to do things right” and, preferably, do it right from the very beginning. We are not a commercial entity, so we are not driven by the need to increase revenue. We are not an association, so we are not driven by the need to expand our membership. We can and do focus solely on developing and administering the most comprehensive certification program for healthcare interpreters. Certification for medical interpreters emerged at the time when we could use the best from the experience of translators, sign language and court interpreters. We had the advantage to learn from them and avoid their weaknesses. So, in our mind, we simply didn’t see another way to operate as to be accredited. Whoever wants to create something that is not the best?!
Of course, I’m not saying we don’t have weaknesses! Technology is our constant frenemy: every time Microsoft or Google or Adobe do something new, we have to tweak our exam delivery. And of course, we have to think of adding skill-testing exams for interpreters of other languages. And we want to support trainers and educators who prepare future interpreters. There are plenty of areas that CCHI works on. And having accreditation frees us to do all those other things confidently because we know that the process is valid and solid.