Unit Clerk Job Description
Hospitals and other large medical facilities hire unit clerks to facilitate operations within a given department. The position involves a mixture of administrative and clerical responsibilities plus customer relations, all with the aim of providing fast, quality service. Most tasks can be performed while sitting, oftentimes behind a main desk. Shifts vary by when the specific ward is open and can include nights, weekends, and holidays. Some unit clerks hold the position on their way to becoming medical secretaries or nurses.
Unit Clerk Duties and Responsibilities
The duties of a unit clerk depend on the needs of the employer and the patient load. However, our analysis of job postings shows some tasks common to most holding the position, including the following:
Greet and Serve Patients
A unit clerk is often the first person patients encounter in a given department. Clerks extend a pleasant welcome and inquire about the purpose of the visit. They then proceed with appropriate actions, such as directing patients where to sit, guiding a visitor to a room, or notifying medical personnel of a patient’s arrival.
Unit clerks handle incoming calls. They provide basic information (such as hours of operation), take messages, schedule appointments, and route calls to others. They also ensure callers aren’t on hold for too long.
Perform Clerical Duties
Unit clerks fax, scan, sort mail, copy, evaluate stock, order supplies, schedule departmental meetings, deliver flowers, transcribe, and perform other basic office tasks. They also serve as a liaison between departments – calling maintenance to change a lightbulb, housekeeping to deliver more sheets, or tech support to deal with a computer glitch.
Maintain and Update Files
Timely data entry of physician orders and patient information keeps files up to date, complete, and ready for future use.
As important helpers, unit clerks carry out instructions from doctors and others on staff. For example, they may be called upon to page a physician, set up lab tests, acquire paperwork, assist with admittance or discharge, arrange transport, or enter dietary orders into the system.
Provide Patient Care
Depending on what the individual employer considers the scope of the job, unit clerks may prep rooms for patients, take and document vital signs, operate a dialysis machine, and perform other hands-on tasks.
Unit Clerk Skills and Qualifications
Because they interact regularly with patients, unit clerks should possess excellent interpersonal skills. Professionalism and a friendly demeanor reflect well on the employer and help put people at ease during trying times. Clear communication and active listening ensure understanding and accuracy. Other factors critical to job success include:
- Attention to detail – actions such as double-checking instructions and entering data carefully minimize mistakes, which can be very costly in a medical setting
- Teamwork – clerks collaborate with others in the office to provide an exceptional patient experience
- Self-motivation – once trained, clerks assess what needs to be done and attend to these tasks with limited supervision and direction
- Discretion – privy to personal data, unit clerks must respect confidentiality and take measures to safeguard sensitive information
- Prioritization – with a multitude of competing demands from customers and staff, unit clerks need to juggle responsibilities effectively and determine which to attend to first
Unit Clerk Education and Training
No minimal education requirements exist for this position beyond a high school diploma or the equivalent. Employers like to see evidence of computer literacy in order for new hires to quickly master the establishment’s software. Knowledge of medical terminology and fluency in a second language can also provide an edge to getting hired. Newcomers receive on-the-job training from experienced clerks.
Unit Clerk Salary and Outlook
Unit clerks earn a median annual salary of about $30,000 ($13 per hour), according to PayScale. Workers on the low end of the pay range make roughly $19,000 ($10 per hour), while the highest paid earn more than $44,000 ($18 per hour). Full-time unit clerks typically receive medical and dental benefits. Paid sick days and vacation also are common perks.
Future employment opportunities for unit clerks look promising due to two factors. The aging of baby boomers will increase the need for medical services and support staff. Also, healthcare is among the last industries to fully embrace recordkeeping technology and will continue to need employees to enter information into systems.
For more information on a career as a unit clerk, check out the following sources we’ve compiled:
American Hospital Association – since 1898, this organization has been a source of information on healthcare issues and trends
Medical Office Assistant and Unit Clerk Certificate – this YouTube video put out by the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology shows actual unit clerks in action and discusses the qualifications needed for success
Medical Terminology for Dummies – this entry in the popular yellow-and-black series of books helps unit clerks better understand words and phrases likely to be encountered in healthcare settings
Job Readiness for Health Professionals: Soft Skills Strategies for Success – be ready to shine in a medical environment with this book focusing on communication, social graces, teamwork, and other traits employers look for when hiring unit clerks
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