Unit Secretary Job Description

Unit secretaries work in a specific unit of a hospital and perform clerical and administrative tasks ranging from admitting patients to scheduling appointments. They might also work for clinics, community health centers, or surgical centers. Unit secretaries wear many hats, such as receptionist, intake specialist, records keeper, typist, and supplies manager. In short, they keep the unit to which they are assigned organized and running smoothly. This is typically an entry-level position, and in most cases the environment is fast-paced. Unit secretaries report to physicians, office managers, nurses, nursing directors, and other hospital personnel. Strong interpersonal and computer skills are important, as is knowledge of basic medical terminology. Unit secretaries primarily work on a full-time basis and can work day or nighttime shifts.

 

Unit Secretary Duties and Responsibilities

While a unit secretary’s day-to-day duties and responsibilities are determined by where they work, there are many core tasks associated with the role. Based on our analysis of job listings, these include:

Perform Receptionist Tasks

From greeting patients and families to answering telephones, unit secretaries perform tasks commonly associated with receptionists. This includes sending faxes, handling interoffice mail, making copies, and ordering office and medical supplies for the unit to which they are assigned.

Manage Patient Appointments

Unit secretaries check patients in to a particular hospital unit. This involves reviewing insurance documents, gathering personal information, reviewing patient paperwork, explaining patient rights and privacy, and entering patient details into a computer system. They also handle patient discharges and transfers. In addition, unit secretaries schedule new and existing patient appointments and follow-up appointments.

Maintain Patient Records

One of the main office administration tasks that falls to unit secretaries is managing patient records in an electronic health records system. This includes entering data, updating records, and retrieving information based on a physician’s or nurse’s request. They also manually file records and doctor notes as needed.

Process Patient Orders

Unit secretaries handle patient orders and coordinate X-rays, blood tests, imaging, and other procedures with other departments. They also handle requests from other departments for patient record information or referrals.

 

Unit Secretary Skills and Qualifications

Unit secretaries generally combine organizational and managerial skills with an interest in the medical field. Employers tend to look for candidates who display the following skills and capabilities:

  • Data entry – unit secretaries should possess fast typing speed and familiarity with various computer systems
  • Electronic health records management – the ability to use different electronic health records software is a major plus for unit secretaries
  • Medical billing experience – unit secretaries sometimes process patient billing and payment and need to be familiar with a wide variety of medical terms to adequately create patient orders
  • Communication skills – strong verbal and written communication skills are needed, as unit secretaries converse with and email physicians, nurses, insurance companies, patients, vendors, and various hospital departments
  • Customer service – keeping patients informed and satisfied with their hospital experience is a crucial job responsibility
  • Teamwork – unit secretaries are part of a team made up of physicians, nurses, medical officer managers, nursing assistants, hospital administrators, and other healthcare personnel
  • Attention to detail – detail-oriented unit secretaries ensure accurate information is processed for every patient
  • Multitasking – in a fast-paced healthcare environment, unit secretaries often handle more than one task at one time, such as answering telephones, checking patients in, and processing insurance information

 

Unit Secretary Education and Training

Those seeking to become a unit secretary do not typically need more than a high school diploma or GED. Training in specific electronic health records management software, medical billing software, and other relevant programs is often done on the job. Aspiring unit secretaries could obtain a two-year degree in medical office administration, but this is not required. A degree could, however, be required for advancement in this field.

 

Unit Secretary Salary and Outlook

As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), unit secretaries earn a median annual salary of about $34,600. Those in the 10th percentile make just over $24,000 per year, while top earners realize a median annual wage of $50,000.

Those working in general and surgical hospitals and outpatient care centers tend to make the highest annual wages in the profession. By state, unit secretaries in the District of Columbia (about $46,000), Massachusetts ($43,000), and Connecticut (just over $42,500) earn the highest mean salaries in the U.S.

Employment for all medical secretaries is expected to increase 22 percent through 2026, the BLS states. This rate is much faster compared to the average for other occupations. An expected increase in the need for medical services and a growing aging population are the main factors behind this projected employment growth rate.

 

Helpful Resources

If it sounds like working as a unit secretary is for you and you want to learn more, explore the resources provided below:

National Association of Health Unit Coordinators – educational opportunities, professional development, networking, certification – these are the main benefits offered to unit secretaries who join NAHUC, which was established in 1982 but has roots as far back as the 1960s

Being a Health Unit Coordinator – from diagnostic order information to medical laws, this comprehensive book explores everything a unit secretary needs to know to succeed in this occupation

The Association of Medical Secretaries, Practice Managers, Administrators and Receptionists – take online courses and network with fellow unit secretaries, medical secretaries, and other professionals when you become a member of AMSPAR

“Medical Secretary: Is It Right for Me?” – this short video reviews actions to take and questions you should ask yourself before pursuing a career as a medical or unit secretary

Steps to Becoming a Medical Secretary: A Step-by-Step Guide to Working in a Hospital – an experienced medical secretary takes you through what it takes to work as a medical or unit secretary on both a personal and professional level, offering tips and secrets to help you succeed in this field

The Essential Medical Secretary: Foundations for Good Practice – this book, approved by AMSPAR, covers everything a unit secretary needs to know about medical records, ethics, drugs, and so much more

 

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