Health Unit Clerk: Job Description and Education Requirements

Health unit clerks work under the direction of nursing staff and physicians coordinating patient appointments and performing secretarial duties. In addition, health unit clerks act as receptionists and communicate with patients on the phone and in person.

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Job Description of a Health Unit Clerk

Health unit clerks, also known as health unit coordinators and floor clerks, collaborate with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare workers within a secretarial or general office function at a hospital, nursing home, or other medical facility. They answer phones, order supplies, and transcribe orders given by physicians. Health unit clerks handle the majority of a patient's paperwork, such as discharge, admission, and personal information forms. They must possess strong communication skills, including verbal and written, as well as be able to effectively multi-task. Office skills, such as organizing, filing, and scheduling, are also typically required.

Job duties of a health unit clerk may include using a computer to document physician orders, preparing patient treatment charts, updating patient information, and scheduling appointments. They work under the supervision of physicians and nurses, taking direction and accommodating clerical needs. Students must have an understanding of basic nursing procedures, as well as background knowledge in pharmacology. Patient confidentiality is emphasized and health unit clerks must abide by these standards.

Education Requirements

Aspiring health unit clerks can acquire training through a diploma, certificate, or associate's degree program. Diploma and certificate programs are generally around 15 credit-hours in length and can be completed in less than a year. The curriculum may include courses in ethics, health information management, medical terminology, pharmacology, and human anatomy. Associate's degree programs have a similar core curriculum with the addition of general education courses. Additionally, many programs typically combine classroom learning with hands-on experience in a medical setting.

Voluntary certification is also available for health unit coordinators through the National Association of Health Unit Coordinators, Inc. (NAHUC). Certification requirements include formal education, training, or experience, as well as a high school diploma or GED.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to PayScale.com, health unit coordinators typically earn between $21,916 and $40,858 a year, including overtime and bonuses, in July 2014. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide information specific to health unit clerks, it did publish a prediction that the employment of medical secretaries, which share many of the same job duties, will likely grow about 36% between 2012 and 2022.

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