Hospital Unit Coordinators play a pivotal role in healthcare today. They relieve the nurses on their unit of non-clinical duties that they were once expected to perform. The UC enables the nursing staff to focus more on the medical needs of the patient, which in turn results in a higher quality of care. A job as a hospital unit coordinator is demanding and fast paced, requiring people who can work well under pressure and who have the ability to multi-task.
The position of hospital unit coordinators has been in existence for over sixty years. They were deemed "floor secretaries" by Abraham Oseroff in 1940 when he wrote an article stressing the need for a position that would take some of the clerical pressure off the already overloaded nurses. Oseroff was instrumental in the implementation of unit coordinators, and the position was first created at Montifore Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Initially, unit coordinators handled more of the secretarial aspects on their unit, but in the nineteen fifties, they were given the added responsibility of transcribing doctor's notes and orders, placing them in the patient's chart. It was in 1960 that hospital administrators began to notice their Unit Coordinators were performing more than just clerical duties, resulting in the development of educational programs geared toward those who wanted to become a UC.
Unit coordinators are most often employed in acute care departments of hospitals, and can work on a specialty unit like progressive or intensive care. While a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma are acceptable for employment, those who pursue a certificate through educational programs designed for unit coordinators, are favored over those who have not. These certificate programs offer a more detailed educational program which enables them to perform their tasks more accurately and efficiently. These programs last a little less than a year. The average annual earnings for a unit coordinator ranges between twenty and twenty-eight thousand dollars, depending on the location and facility.
Hospital unit coordinators, or unit secretaries as they are sometimes referred to, assist the nurses by handling incoming calls, taking messages from doctors and family members and handling the necessary paperwork for admissions, transfers and discharges. They also assist in answering a patient's call light when a nurse cannot get to it right away, helping to meet the needs of the patient in a more timely manner. If working in a specialized department like intensive care, they will have to monitor a telemetry machine, a computer that monitors the heart rates and rhythms of the patients. They must have the ability to decipher the waves on the printout, as the dips and spikes can indicate a possible heart attack or stroke. Many hospitals will send their UC's to a special course in telemetry reading at no cost to them.
There are many facets to a unit coordinator position. Upon a doctor's issuance of an order for a test or a new prescription, the UC must have the ability to read and transcribe this information. It is also imperative that they enter the information into the computer correctly to the proper department, such as the pharmacy or EKG lab, and then add the information into the patient's chart. Maintaining charts is another aspect of a unit coordinator position. Upon admission, they will fill out the complete history of the patient, list any medications they are taking and their doses and why they are being admitted. This is the information the doctors and nurses rely on when creating a care plan. Accuracy is essential which makes attention to detail a must. It is not uncommon for the UC to be in the middle of performing one task while more instructions are given to them simultaneously. For this reason, the UC must possess good organizational skills and have the ability to stay focused when stress levels are high. Interpersonal skills are a must as well, as the unit coordinator not only works with nurses, doctor's and family members, but also with the patient themselves, as they are often required to transport a patient to exams.
If you know in high school that you would like to become a hospital unit coordinator, you can opt for courses that will assist you once you have been hired. Science, math, English, and computer classes are recommended. The pursuit of a unit coordinator certificate is voluntary, yet has many benefits. The courses you would be studying in a certificate program include hospital organization, medical terminology and transcription, all of which are skills you would be using on a daily basis. These certifications are recognized Nationally, allowing for employment anywhere in the United States. The National Association of Health Unit Coordinators offers information about obtaining your certification, as well as support and helpful information for hospital unit coordinators.