OT: Unit Secretary

Nursing Students General Students


Has anyone here worked as a Unit Secretary at a hospital?

I have an interview today for that position and the HR woman says it's a great stepping stone for nursing students. I'm really nervous because I've never worked in healthcare and all the job listings say that one requires medical terminology knowledge....

I don't have that..... I'm still taking prereq's!!! The HR woman I spoke with knows this, I told her but I'm still very nervous about it.

Any words of encouragement? :)


Yes, I was a Unit Sec. for 15 years before becoming a nurse---it has helped me greatly in the charge role--I can run the desk w/o my secretary (not that I want to, tho) when she is on break. Granted you do not get into patient care issues but a good secretary can track down anything!!! When I am charge I can order labs, call radiology, get blood, get a room cleaned, whatever--all thanks to my previous job. Most nurses just stand there and ask, "where do I call"?! My advise to you is that you NEED medical terminology knowledge if nothing else--in this state the US's get their training at tech. colleges. Make sure your hospital will give you the medical term. class otherwise track a class down at your local college--prob. would be paid for by your hospital. The benefit of that job also is you can study during down times at the desk--I did for 9 years!! Good Luck--(p.s.-med. term. is not scary)


Thanks!! This was great information. :)

I'm not scared of learning the terminology.... I'm scared of working there and not already knowing the terminology.

I.e. if they hire me and want me to start in 2 weeks, I won't find a class by then ;-)

What were a lot of your duties as a Unit Secretary? :)

--zan :)

It is a hard job to explain to people so I used to tell them that "do you know Radar O'Reilly from MASH? what he did is pretty much what I do"--Anyways, you run the desk!! you run the unit!! You put and take apart charts, transcribe DRs orders to med sheets/kardexs etc, you do orders in the computer, you answer all phone lines at once!! haha,you fax, copy, write write write, you are your charge nurse' right hand man/woman, you coordinate beds/room assignments, you orient floated staff, you orient lost visitors, you answer call lights and relay to appropriate staff, I could go on and on. Put it this way--if it is broke, lost, wrong, etc you need to know how to fix or find its replacement etc etc. But most inportant of all--you keep those docs in line!! ;)

:) I was in your shoes exactly a year ago. I had an interview as a unit secretary and I knew absolutely no medical terminology. Good thing is that I was orienting for a month so I learned the terminology and learned how to run the unit. It is a lot of work. Everybody will turn to you for any kind of problem...but believe me, you'll catch on quick.

The advantage to being a unit secretary is that you get a head start into nursing school because you have your medical terminology down. ;)

I've been a unit sec for a year now and it's great. I was able to study for exams and do homework (sometimes with some nurse' help)!

Take advantage of the opportunity and good luck!


I work in a hospital as a unit secretary and I start nursing school in september. Everyone I know says that this is an awesome job to hace before going to school. YOu learn about labs and rx lots of helpful info take the job its not only informative I have alot of fun with it. Never a dull moment especially because Im a float :D

Thanks for all the great replies! :)

I have another question. This may sound silly but it has me concerned. :)

How will they know that I'm supposed to be trained and that I don't know what I'm doing?? i.e. There will be differnet people there almost every time I go in for the first week or so until I get to know people. Is "training" something worked out with the scheduling people (like do they schedule you to work with someone specifically to train you?).

On my first day after the general orientation, I'm scared because they said to report to the team lead in my department. I can't even remember how to get to my department let alone know where to find the team lead......!!

All silly things to worry about I'm sure, but I've never worked in a healthcare environment before.........


-zan :)

Different hospitals do this differently but likely you will train with ideally one person and their relief for a minimum amount of weeks. It may be more people than that, but hopefully not too many more than that. Generally, you will watch them do what they do, then you will quickly progress to doing it with them at your side and then, more and more, on your own with them checking your work.

Unit clerk is a highly responsible position because you are arranging for doctor's orders to be implemented. Omitting or ordering the wrong thing has ramifications. Your work is ALWAYS signed off by an RN. The good news is that you create a system of check-off and then you become a slave to it. _No one is going to throw you into this and expect you to do it tomorrow_. These tasks are interleaved with phone answering and contending with families, since you often are the person "just" sitting at the desk.

As a student nurse, one of my favorite instructors said to me, "Don't let people interrupt you when you are giving meds because it is such an important task." This is true for UC's, too. You have to create some limits around yourself so that you can concentrate on the important task at hand and yet you will get input from those around you. It is a learned balancing act, so watch your mentors to see how they do this.

As for, "I'm not even sure I can find my unit." I worked in the 200 bed hospital that I had trained in for 5 years, then I migrated to the big, tertiary 700 bed hospital. Frankly, at the big new hospital, I carried a map of the hospital in my pocket for a long time. They had them for the visitors and I got one for me! Ask people for help. You'll learn soon enough.

take the pressure off of yourself of expecting instant perfection. They are hoping for steady progress not instant perfection. Also, the HR lady is paid to determine whether an applicant had the wherewithall to do certain low paid but highly responsible :rolleyes: jobs. The ability to successfully complete a pre-nursing curriculum says something about people and so she's taking a chance on ya. Yep, you'll get a crash course in medical terminology and I've even seen UC's in training carry cheat sheets or lists of terms that they needed to know but had trouble remembering.

And finally, in an ED I worked, we had a sign up that I thought, at first, had been placed there just for me, but I soon learned that it was a long term part of the decor. It said, "Please ask the stupid questions. They are easier to cope with than the stupid mistakes." Ask questions. It is expected.

Good luck. You obviously care about doing well and that in itself is a tremendous asset.

Hi Zannie. This may sound like a shameless plug for my site, but I think I might have some info that may help you. I have a section on medical terminology that includes some online practice exams. If you'd like to check it out, go to:

Class Notes - Medical Terminology


Thanks! Actually I've been to your site already, great place! :) You go to SIU right?

Very close friends of mine went to SIU too but in Carbondale (you go to Edwardsomething... Edwardsville?)



Hi Zannie,

I'm starting nursing school in the Fall as well & I would definitely go for the Unit Secretary/Unit Clerk position! I just started as a Unit Clerk at a small local hospital & love it. I'm learning SO much & getting some incredible hospital/medical experience. I'm set up with a preceptor for about 3 weeks & then decide (along with my supervisor) if I am ready to be on my own. I have alot of responsibilities & the job can be stressful at times, but so far I really like it. The nurses are happy to have a nursing student at the unit desk & are offering all kinds of advice even though I'm not even in school yet. It's great! I'm training in the ICU & will eventually move up to a med surg floor. If u have any questions, feel free to reply or just e-mail!

Christine (=

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