Medical Interpreters Embrace Nation’s First Certification Through Independent Board

Thursday, July 8, 2010 General News
Email Print This Page Comment bookmark
Font : A-A+

As Interpreters Become Certified, National Medical Interpreter Certification Program Improves Patient Safety Process

WASHINGTON, July 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Continuing its historic march forward in improving patient safety through

better communication, the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters is awarding its first Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI) designations. Hundreds of interpreters have taken the National Board’s written medical interpreter certification exam, and they are now moving through completion of the second phase, the oral exam.

Habib Serrano, an interpreter from Boynton Beach, Florida, who has worked in the medical interpreting field for 13 years, says he is honored and proud to be one of the first to receive the CMI designation from the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters.

“Being understood in the hospital or other health care setting can mean the difference between life and death,” said Habib. “As medical interpreters, it’s our responsibility to be able to accurately interpret for providers and patients, from the reception desk intake process to discharge instructions. Going through the certification program to confirm our skill level should be something we all take very seriously.”

Alejandro Colin, a medical interpreter at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and another in the first group to pass the two exams, added, “The CMI designation gives us the recognition that I so passionately believe we need. Having this national standard in place will not only improve competency in medical interpreting, it will elevate the entire medical interpreting profession.”

Serrano and Colin, along with 69 other individuals who have been granted a CMI designation based on their participation as Subject Matter Experts in the development of the exams, were the first medical interpreters to receive the new national credential, CMI. These interpreters will be among the first to use the professional “CMI” designation following their name to identify their professional status in the field of medical interpreting. This formal status is also a benefit to other smaller language service providers who may not have the resources to screen and test interpreters before hiring them.

The CMI designation on business cards and the wallet card that all certified medical interpreters will receive upon passing the exams will save time and money for hospitals who also hire their own internal interpreters. A registry currently under development at will serve as a central point to validate those with the CMI status in addition to the personal identification card and professional certificate interpreters will receive.

Since exams are administered on demand, at the interpreter’s convenience at hundreds of locations nationwide, every day more and more candidates are moving through the exam and rating process. The response since launching the program in October 2009 has been tremendous, and as of this date, almost 300 interpreters have either taken or are in the process of taking the exams.

“The mission of the National Board, which was created through a public selection process, is to ensure patient safety by evaluating and assessing the competency of medical interpreters through a single national certification program,” said Dr. Nelva Lee, Chair of the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters. “Health care professionals are required to meet standardized guidelines before treating patients and, where limited-English speaking patients are concerned, an interpreter's skill level is integral to patient safety. Medical interpreters now have a national certification program indicative of the critical role they play in providing access to quality health care.”

The National Board’s certification program includes written and oral exams that were designed using findings from a national job analysis that included a survey of more than 1,500 practicing professional medical interpreters and focus group research with hospitals, academics and medical associations from around the country. Leading professional testing and certification credentialing services provider PSI conducted the job analysis and validated the test results. The process in its entirety was set and measured against the highest criterion, as evident in the recent public report.

In recent years, the role of communication in patient safety has moved to a top spot on the nation’s public agenda. According to the Joint Commission, communication breakdowns are the “root cause” of the nearly 3,000 sentinel events - unexpected deaths and catastrophic injuries - reported to the organization each year.  Joint Commission reports also reveal that limited-English proficient patients suffer more adverse events and severe repercussions from these errors than other patient groups.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has long prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin. President Clinton’s Executive Order 13166, “Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency,” issued in 2000, attempted to clarify and strengthen the language access implications of Title VI, but it has left gaps in structure and enforcement. Without national certification, hospitals and other facilities have responded to this requirement in dramatically different ways.

“To this day, in many states, medical interpreters are still the only health care professionals involved in the diagnosis and treatment of patients who are not required to have some sort of certification,” said Izabel Arocha, president of the International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA), a co-founder of the National Board. “While we are thrilled to have reached this important milestone, and congratulate our first Certified Medical Interpreters for their role as innovators in the field, the safety of limited-English speaking patients will not be guaranteed until medical interpreter certification becomes a nationally adopted standard.”

“By having the validated national medical certification exams in place and accessible, with interpreters moving through the program, we have fulfilled a vision more than 20 years in the making,” added Louis Provenzano, President and COO of Language Line Services, co-founder of the National Board. “Now it is time to move forward, expand the languages offered, and continue to support and help build the medical interpreter profession.”

Recently, Language Line Services and IMIA, along with more than over 100 medical interpreters, health care and hospitals executives from across the country, spread out on Capitol Hill and held over 200 meetings with their members of Congress, capped off by a rally in front of the Capitol to advocate that the CMI designation become a federal standard for interpreters working in our nation’s hospitals and health care institutions. To view footage of this rally, visit


The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters is a non-profit organization, formed from an independent group of industry professionals who represent all key stakeholder groups, including professional medical interpreters, trainers, employers, providers, and regulators. The National Board serves as the certifying entity and has independent authority over all essential certification decisions. The purpose of certification is to ensure limited-English proficiency patient safety by evaluating and assuring the competency of medical interpreters. The formation and structure of the National Board of Certification adheres to the standards and requirements for certification program governance mandated by the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) - formerly NOCA, and will be applying for its accreditation. For more information, visit

Media Contact:

Shawn Yanan / / 305-962-1768

This press release was issued through eReleases(R).  For more information, visit eReleases Press Release Distribution at

SOURCE The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters

Post your Comments

Comments should be on the topic and should not be abusive. The editorial team reserves the right to review and moderate the comments posted on the site.
* Your comment can be maximum of 2500 characters
I agree to the terms and conditions

News A - Z


News Search

Medindia Newsletters

Subscribe to our Free Newsletters!

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Find a Doctor

Press Release Category

Press Release Archive

Stay Connected

  • Available on the Android Market
  • Available on the App Store