Hospital Unit Secretaries

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    The hospital unit secretary is vitally important to the smooth day-to-day operations of the unit or floor. Unit secretaries perform essential secretarial duties such as answering phones, assembling charts, making appointments, entering patient data, generating face sheets, and so much more.

    Hospital Unit Secretaries

    Today's hospital setting is a busy place in need of industrious employees who can keep up with the numerous demands and multiple tasks associated with allied healthcare. Hospital unit secretaries, also known as unit clerks or ward secretaries, are staff who provide a variety of essential secretarial duties for physicians, floor nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other providers on specific hospital units or floors.


    Unit secretaries complete an assortment of routine tasks that are vital to the smooth operation of the hospital unit or floor. Unit secretaries act as receptionists, welcome new patients to the facility, ask clients / families to complete specific forms, and assemble charts. Unit secretaries also apply identification armbands to newly admitted patients, input patient data, create face sheets, answer phones, arrange appointments, enter and take off new orders, file paperwork, notify physicians and mid-level providers of new consults, and handle certain non-medical queries from patients, family members, and members of the interdisciplinary team. Keep in mind that a unit secretary's full range of duties is dictated by each hospital's policies, procedures and job descriptions.

    In addition to the aforementioned duties, hospital unit secretaries also operate office equipment such as computers, fax machines, phone systems, copy machines, scanners, and label printers. Good interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate effectively are imperative, because unit secretaries will deal with many different people throughout the course of a shift.

    Work Environment

    Most hospital unit secretaries work primarily indoors in climate-controlled units or floors of acute care facilities. They do a reasonable amount of sitting but must also bend, lift heavy objects such as boxes and reams of copy paper, and occasionally walk to and from patients' rooms.

    Educational Requirements

    A hospital unit secretary can learn the essential tasks required of the position through on-the-job training. In this day and age, the vast majority of hospitals will not hire an applicant into the unit secretary role if the person does not possess at least a high school diploma or GED. Some unit secretaries have backgrounds as trained medical assistants or medical office receptionists. Post-secondary training that focuses on medical terminology, typing, basic computer skills, communications and business skills is helpful.

    Job Outlook

    According to predictions from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical secretaries (which would include unit secretaries) are expected to experience a soaring 41 percent rate of growth from 2010 to 2020, which is healthy when compared to the predicted 12 percent increase for all other types of secretarial, clerical and administrative assistants. The growth rate in this field is driven partly by the Baby Boomer cohort, which numbers 78 million aging people who will have complex health problems requiring hospital stays and whose records will need to be addressed.


    Pay rates for hospital unit secretaries differ due to factors such as geographic region, years of experience, and different wage grids being offered by numerous hospital systems. reports unit secretary wages for the 10th percentile at $9.62 hourly while the 90th percentile were paid $16.45 hourly. For medical secretaries, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a median hourly wage of $14.93 hourly and a median annual salary of $31,060 in May 2011.


    Medical Secretaries
    Job Description for a Hospital Unit Secretary |
    Last edit by Joe V on Jan 9, '15
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  3. by   BSNbeauty
    Unit Secretaries play such a vital role in healthcare. I'm grateful for the ones that actually do there jobs and not sit at the nursing station gossiping the whole shift.
    I worked with excellent secretaries and some that were just awful to work with.
    Anyway, great post !
  4. by   313RN
    We're cutting unit clerks (secretaries) left and right. They now cover multiple units each day, as many as 60 beds each. On nights there might only be 2 in the building (we're an urban trauma hospital). It has caused many problems and put a greater burden on he nursing staff, but now that they're gone we don't expect to get them back.

    I don't know where he growth is being projected, but it's not in my area.
  5. by   schnookimz
    Our unit secretary's were paid 5-6 dollars an hour more than the nurses aides. They were even paid more than the LPNs. If the nurses aides cross trained to work as a unit secretary they only got an extra 1 dollar per hour. Due to this experience, I feel like we can do without this unskilled labor while the nurses aides are bending over backward to be overworked and abused.
  6. by   DoGoodThenGo
    Though do not think it was his official job description always felt "Radar" from MASH was the perfect unit secretary/ward clerk.

    Not only skilled in processing paperwork but knew how to work the system and or his connections to find scarce supplies or run a physician to ground to sign an order or some such.

    Sadly yes unit secretaries are in the cross hairs of many bean counters. That or the real good ones are retiring or won't put up with nonsense and leave. Often what is left are those that act as if they have no other place to use a computer than at "work".

    However will say in general the secretarial/assistant employment options in general are dwindling each year. Technology has simply made so much of what secretaries once did is now redundant. There was an article in either the NYT or WSJ a month or so ago back at how even legal secretaries are being laid off/phased out. There you have women and men who have been at the job for much of their careers, where are they to find work at or near nearly fifty?
  7. by   dirtyhippiegirl
    My hospital has been fully converted to EMR for several years now. We still keep unit secretaries full time for some units, esp. the high-volume call units like ER and L&D/M&B.

    Otherwise, we're trying to keep our unit secretaries occupied. They're technically supposed to order linens and make certain that all our rooms are clean. The oldschool ones who've been around since Jesus know a lot -- they know where and whom to call if I need anything for anyone or anything or yeah. That's great. They still do absolutely nothing of value anymore. Except this one that we have who likes to decorate our unit for various holidays and host parties. No one else would do it if she didn't.

    Last year, our unit manager presented us with the dilemma that she had enough FT hours to either hire a new unit secretary or two aides. We universally opted for the aides. We got another useless unit secretary instead.
  8. by   Amnesty
    In my hospital, nobody wants to be a unit secretary because it's a huge hassle and you don't get paid any more for doing it than you do for being a nurse extender (glorified CNA title). I guess it has its pros and cons, but it takes FOREVER to learn the position. You have to know absolutely everybody and how your floor flows and who's going to need what and when.

    All extenders are cross-trained for a week on the desk so we know the basics (after all, there is no unit secretary on overnight shift and so overnight extenders especially have to know how to handle things that come up), and it was the worst few days I had. I didn't know any of the doctors, the people who called were like, "Oh... where's Suzy??" (the girl usually on the desk) because it was obvious I didn't have a dang clue what I was doing, and trying to answer the phone, answer all the call light rings, and get everybody what they needed was a huge headache.

    As an extender, if you get a minute, it's your minute. If it's slow, you sit down and chill out and can pretty much wander the floor as long as you have your phone on you. They'll call you if you're needed. At the desk, you are stuck there. Every time you leave, somebody has to cover you. And trust me, the other people got a bit witchy about covering x_x.
  9. by   t_tkimbrough
    Well Well Well Im a unit secetary have been for 8 years now. I love my job and the nurse, cna's and doctors i work with. Although sometime it gets very hetic. Due to the fact i work the busiest shift (3pm to 11pm) we deal with a lot. On one of the post that was made it referenced cross training the cna to do a clerk job. honestly in the hospital i work in that will never work. Most times the clerks are the go to person for the floor. True enough we are covering some time 2 to 3 units in a shift. Yet We still are able to know whats going on. If im working the whole floor which is 3 different units holding 80 patients. there is never a time when anyone comes to me asking if the patient went for a test or is off the floor. Most times the nurses are so busy with their patients that they rely on us so much if we were not that i just wonder what will happen.

    when it comes to the cna's they are over worked to to add more work to them for just $1 more doesnt make sense to me. But again who am i. I know my job and i do it will. I really hate for people to bash clerks i feel until you are placed in our position you have no room to talk. Im a mother, full time student and a full time worker and i make it do what it do. I love it.
  10. by   NuGuyNurse2b
    I worked as a unit secretary prior to nursing school, and it was back in the day before the EMR's so I had to know how to transcribe medications. It was a valuable education cause I can basically look at a med order and know exactly what's being ordered, whereas some of my classmates are still having difficulty memorizing the shorthand. But that's about it as far as my 'advantage' goes

    As far as pay, we definitely were not paid more than the aides/techs. the US was always at the bottom of the pay scale on the unit. But I can't complain, we didn't do any physical labor like the techs had to do, it was a pretty comfortable gig.
  11. by   schnookimz
    It seems that it's literally the only job in the hospital where work is being taken away from them due to the use of computers and doctors entering their own orders, while everyone else constantly has to do more and more and more with the same number of hours in the day.
  12. by   t_tkimbrough
    Quote from schnookimz
    It seems that it's literally the only job in the hospital where work is being taken away from them due to the use of computers and doctors entering their own orders, while everyone else constantly has to do more and more and more with the same number of hours in the day.
    i wouldnt say that work is taken away. if anything where i work its more. due to the fact that everything is in the computer now its till not 100% most times doctors request appointments for days they are not even in clinics then we have to call around and try to find out what days the doctors are actually there to set the apointments for the doctors. when it comes to other others its pretty much the same. everyone seems to think going computerized solves everything but it really dont. we have been live for 3 years now and its never been fully up and running. seems its more COMPUTER downtime then ever.
  13. by   imintrouble
    I love/love/love our unit secretaries. Before we went EMR, I was amazed at what they could do. The organization. The detail. Juggling 4-5 admits all at once. My head would have exploded.
    Since we went EMR, I'm just as amazed at what they can do. I don't know about any other hospital, but where I work they're invaluable.
  14. by   t_tkimbrough
    Quote from imintrouble
    I love/love/love our unit secretaries. Before we went EMR, I was amazed at what they could do. The organization. The detail. Juggling 4-5 admits all at once. My head would have exploded.
    Since we went EMR, I'm just as amazed at what they can do. I don't know about any other hospital, but where I work they're invaluable.

    i think i speak for all unit secretaries...........thank you for believing in us. we work hard.