How to Become a Health Unit Secretary

Learn how to become a health unit secretary. Research the education requirements, certification information and experience required for starting a career as a health unit secretary.

Do I Want to Be a Health Unit Secretary?

A health unit secretary, sometimes called a health unit coordinator, 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.

Job Requirements

A high school diploma is required, and some employers prefer secretaries who have completed postsecondary courses or degree programs. Optional certifications are available. The following table contains some common requirements for becoming a health unit secretary.

Common Requirements
Degree Level High school diploma**
Experience 1-5 years of experience**
Certification Voluntary***
Key Skills Medical terminology, typing, customer service skills, clerical skills, medical background**
Computer Skills Medical software, database software, accounting software, word processing skills**
Technical Skills Hospital intercom system, photocopier, fax machine, scanner*

Sources: *ONet Online, ** job postings (October 2012), ***U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Step 1: Obtain 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.

Success Tip:

  • 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.

Step 2: Complete a Postsecondary Health Unit Secretary Educational 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. Students should be able to work under stressful conditions and be able to pay close attention to details. Class topics include terminology, computer skills and understanding doctors' orders. They can be taken on a full-time or part-time basis.

Success Tip:

  • 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: Earn a Health Unit Coordinator Certification

Many health unit secretaries obtain certification from the National Association of Health Unit Coordinators, Inc. Anyone who is currently employed as a health unit secretary, has successfully completed a health unit coordinator program or is involved with health unit secretarial duties is eligible to take the certification exam. The association recommends examination review before testing.

Successful passage of the examination can help a health unit coordinator show competency and knowledge. Certification is voluntary, but can increase prospects for the professional advancement of a health unit secretary. Recertification is required every three years.

Step 4: 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.

Success Tips:

  • 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.

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