The term unit clerk generally refers to a person performing a broad range of administrative and clerical duties in a unit of a medical or nursing facility. Unit clerks may also be called coordinators. The unit clerk performs an important function, attending to a broad range of time-consuming administrative tasks and freeing up other specialists within the unit to perform their primary functions.
Skills and Qualifications
A unit clerk must possess superior organizational and time management skills as well as good communication skills, with an emphasis on tact and discretion. Attention to detail is very important, as are reading, writing and math skills, and a working knowledge of the terminology and jargon used by the unit’s professionals. Computer skills are an important component of the job, as is the ability to learn new applications and technologies. A unit clerk should be able to work well with others and respond to multiple urgent requests in a work environment that can become hectic. A high school diploma is universally required to become a unit clerk, and many employers require some relevant work experience as well.
Although the specific responsibilities vary from unit to unit, the clerk is generally responsible for preparing, compiling, storing and accessing patient records and other records of the unit’s activities, including patient and staff lists and schedules. As appropriate, the clerk interacts with other departments in the facility, for example, notifying the billing department when patients are discharged. As the unit’s receptionist, the unit clerk engages in significant interaction with patients and the public, greeting visitors and directing them to patient rooms, distributing mail, reading material, flowers and other items to patients. The unit clerk answers the unit’s phones, taking and relaying messages and providing information to callers as appropriate. In the course of an average day, unit clerks may use a computer, photocopier, fax machine, calculator, telephone, bar code reader and scanner.
The clerk maintains the unit’s inventory of office and medical supplies, ordering refills as appropriate and ordering other items when requested. Another duty usually performed by a unit clerk is preparing for incoming patients by preparing admission kits, charts and room labels, physical exam cards and sight-checking rooms for readiness. The unit clerk may also help with transporting patients in wheelchairs to other locations in the facility, and may key patient information and other data into a computer. In some units, the clerk records personnel data including absences and hours worked.
Training and Certification
Most of the training is conducted on-the-job by more experienced personnel, and is generally completed by the end of the first year, if not earlier. Because of the extremely personal nature of much of the material handled by the unit clerk, one of the critical objectives of this training is a thorough understanding of government privacy laws and regulations, as well as the employer’s privacy policies. Since 1983, the National Association of Health Care Coordinators, Inc., has certified thousands of unit clerks and coordinators. When a candidate’s resume includes NAHUC certification, it’s indicative of a high degree of expertise and professionalism in the competencies of the unit coordinator or clerk. Experience as a unit clerk is often a key qualification for advancement to such positions as medical records technician, medical secretary or medical office manager.
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