Becoming a Health Unit Secretary
So, you think you might like to become a health unit secretary. A health unit secretary, sometimes called a health unit coordinator or a medical secretary, manages the basic administrative tasks of a hospital ward, nursing home, or other healthcare provider. Some duties may include greeting patients, completing insurance claim forms, scheduling lab work, operating office equipment, routing calls, and maintaining medical records. A health unit secretary also interacts with health professionals, patients, and their families. This profession often requires multi-tasking and extreme flexibility.
So, what are the career requirements for a health unit secretary?
|Degree Level||High school diploma or equivalent; postsecondary training is recommended|
|Degree Field(s)||Information science, computer science, or a related field|
|Experience||1-5 years of experience|
|Certification||Voluntary certification available|
|Key Skills||Medical terminology, typing, customer service skills, clerical skills, medical background; medical software, database software, accounting software, word processing skills; hospital intercom system, photocopier, fax machine, scanner|
|Median Salary (2015)||$34,330 (for a medical secretary)|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online, Monster.com job postings (October 2012), PayScale.com
Step 1: Get a High School Diploma
A health unit secretary must have a high school diploma or a GED. All jobs as a health unit secretary have this basic requirement, and some also require a vocational certificate or other formal, postsecondary education.
- Take classes in office skills while in high school. Aspiring health unit secretaries can take office-related classes such as typing to prepare themselves for health unit secretarial positions. Basic office skills should be offered in the high school curriculum. A health unit secretary must have strong interpersonal and organizational skills, as well as computer experience. High school classes in communications, office management, and computers would be advantageous.
Find schools that offer these popular programs
- Health Care Administration
- Health Information and Records Admin
- Health Information Technology
- Health Management and Clinical Administration
- Health Unit Coordinator
- Health Ward Supervisor
- Medical Administrative Assistant or Secretary
- Medical Claims Examiner
- Medical Facilities Management
- Medical Insurance Billing and Coding
- Medical Insurance Services
- Medical Office Computer Technologies
- Medical Office Management
- Medical Office Specialist
- Medical Receptionist
- Medical Staff Services
- Medical Transcriptionist
Step 2: Complete a Postsecondary Degree or Certificate Program
While this is not a requirement, many aspiring health unit secretaries complete a certificate program. Programs are offered by many community colleges and technical schools. These programs take approximately one year to complete. Class topics include terminology, computer skills, and understanding doctors' orders. They can be taken on a full-time or part-time basis.
- Consider a degree program. Many colleges offer associate's degree programs in the medical administrative secretary specialization. Some certificate and diploma program coursework may offer college credit towards your degree. A typical associate's degree program takes about two years to complete.
Step 3: Find a Job
Many career paths are open to health unit secretaries. Both full- and part-time positions are available. Opportunities are available at hospitals, medical clinics, and long-term healthcare facilities. Although advanced skills are not always required, health unit secretaries who acquire advanced skills in computers, medical terminology, and office skills can find more job opportunities available to them.
- Flexibility is a key trait in finding a job. Jobs available for entry-level health unit secretaries require flexibility in scheduling, including nights, weekends and long shifts to meet the needs of the facility. Offering your availability for any shift may help you gain employment in the field.
Step 4: Earn a Health Unit Coordinator Certification
Many health unit secretaries obtain certification from the National Association of Health Unit Coordinators, Inc. Certification is voluntary but can increase prospects for professional advancement. Anyone currently employed as a health unit secretary or who successfully completed a health unit coordinator program is eligible to take the certification exam. The association recommends examination review before testing. Re-certification is required every three years.
Obtain a high school diploma, earn a postsecondary degree or certificate, find a job, and seek certification are the steps you can follow to make the most of a career as a health unit secretary.