This week I was reading the CLAS Standards. CLAS stands for Culturally and Linguistic Appropriate Services. I went to the Blueprint on the CLAS site, and downloaded the Blueprint. The full Blueprint is available for download here. EnhancedCLASStandardsBlueprint

Standard 7 reads:

Ensure the competence of individuals providing language assistance, recognizing that the use of untrained individuals and/or minors as interpreters should be avoided.

It was tremendously exciting to read the Standard, published in 2013, and find that everything I’ve been saying in my blog, to my students, to my clients, to the media, and everywhere else has been totally consistent with CLAS Standards.

Here are some slightly paraphrased examples:

  • Use of untrained individuals and/or minors as interpreters should be avoided.
  • The use of friends, family members and minors may compromise patient autonomy and confidentiality.
  • The use of trained interpreters resulted in reduced return rates to the Emergency Department and lower lengths of stay.
  • The use of clinical and nonclinical staff who speak a non-English language but are untrained in medical interpretation can pose potential safety risks.
  • Interpreters (“individuals providing language assistance, in CLAS 7”) should be trained.
  • The language ability of interpreters should be assessed according to the ACTFL/ILR scale (Language Testing International is the exclusive licensee of the ACTFL.)
  • Organizations may provide language assistance through a combination of bilingual staff, dedicated language assistance, etc. The important thing is that the language assistance is provided by competent individuals.

I have written blog posts about several of these issues. Hospitals are expected to follow CLAS standards. This should not be viewed as an unfunded mandate. When trained and qualified professionals do the work of interpreting, it enhances the quality of care without adding to the cost. Working with trained and qualified medical interpreters is a good business deal!