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UNIT SECRETARIES-- the good, and the not so good...


I was interested in hearing various experiences, positive or negative, with ward clerks/unit secretaries. We've got some headstrong ones where I work who can really set the tone at the nurse's station, for better or for worst. One gal is very well established, has been at it for years, knows the hospital inside and out, but can be incredibly inappropriate at times. She dominates the atmosphere at the nurse's station with her loud irreverance, and politically incorrect comments.

Any thoughts?

the day shift unit secretary is a nightmare. she is loud and obnoxious. talks about patients and nurses at the front desk. she ask all the docs weight loss questions to the point that they tell her to call the office for an appointment. made a patient cry because she talked about her being a crybabie at the front desk while she was ambulating the hallway. ( pt had a histo with a nicked bladder)

pebbles, BSN, RN

Specializes in Trauma acute surgery, surgical ICU, PACU. Has 17 years experience.

We've got one who is a workplace bully. She'll give a nurse the silent treatment for months over something small like the nurse forgot to say hello to her one day. She was disciplined by mgmt when she decided not to process the orders on the charts for the nurses she was mad at. And she'll yell at patients or visitors who are too demanding. She's been told to take anger management classes more than once in her career, but there's no getting rid of her.

And I never knew what I did to upset her, but I was the victim of a "slam something at the desk and stomp away" campaign whenever she and I worked the same shifts. It lasted for months. She is better now, but only because our new manager won't put up with that crap.

She was away on an illness for a year, and the clerk we had while she was gone was a great person. She was friendly and helpful to everyone, and unified the atmosphere at the desk. What a breath of fresh air!

The desk can be a stressful place to work for an entire shift, but having seen people handling it differently makes me appreciate how much of an impact the desk clerk has on the entire unit.


Specializes in Med-Surg, Long Term Care.

I've worked with a number of different Unit Clerks over the years and experienced the good and not so good. The majority I've worked with have had some degree of anger issues and were often control freaks-- Don't dare sit in her chair, touch her stuff, look at a chart while she's taking off orders, etc.

I currently work with a couple who are efficient and friendly. One thing I've noticed about U.C.'s is they all know the gossip. They may be putting charts together or seem busy, but they're always listening and know nurses', PCTs', and doctors' weaknesses, strengths, and any dirt that's been passed around. They are the eyes and ears of the unit and can definitely make or break your shift depending on their attitude and work ethic.

We have another ward clerk who has a college degree in philosophy or something...:rolleyes: She used to retort any critisism of her work by saying that the job was way beneath her, that she had an important college degree, blah, blah, blah. She teaches yoga on the side, and is always surfing the net at yoga sites. She's improved her attitude, but isn't all that great at the job. She's fun to have philosophical conversations with, and is always politically correct. I like her. Her boyfriend is one of our surgeons, who is 20 years her senior.


Has 26 years experience.

they are like the general population. There are good, bad and ugly. Mostly GOOD.

The good ones are usually very good, the bad ones are terrible. I will respect their jobs, space, and time as long as they do the same for me. I have worked with a couple who needed boiled in oil, but only a couple. Most have been great. When I worked with a really good one, I treated her special, she made my job easier and I appreciated her effort. :balloons:

Where I work, we have one Ward clerk who is worth 5 times her weight in gold. She is always professional in dress and mannerisms and truly makes the ward run VERY smoothly. I have jokingly called her Radar, but that is what she is like: she knows what you want before you even know for sure. Everyone enjoys working with her.

Then there's all the others. They come to work dressed in jeans, t-shirts, etc., which I feel is very inappropriate in their line of work. None of them seem to want to take a vested interest in their duties nor resposibility in doing their job right. And then they wonder why so many people prefer working with the finest.:rolleyes:

A ward clerk can definitely make or break a unit.


Specializes in Telemetry, ICU, Resource Pool, Dialysis. Has 11 years experience.

We only have clerks sometimes at night, so any help is always appreciated by all of us. The ones we have are awesome. One of our day clerks is really good, too, but she's very bitter. I guess day shift treats her like poo most of the time. She says they bring over charts and pile them at the desk waiting for her to do orders, then go back to their desk and chat. She says often all that needs done in a chart is a med scanned and transcribed - something that would take the nurse 2 minutes to do herself. They'll put the chart with one med on it on top of a pile of 10 charts for her to do. No wonder she's bitter and angry most of the time!! Being a clerk in some busy units has to be stressful - especially new clerks without much medical knowledge.

General E. Speaking, RN, RN

Specializes in floor to ICU.

our day secretary has difficulty staying put in her seat. we threaten to put glue in her chair. I can't count the number of times I have walked to the nurses station to find it empty and the phone ringing. Frankly, I am tired of hearing "where's Maria?" The other shift secretary's are fine.


Specializes in Critical Care/ICU.

Our unit secretaries are absolutely awesome! I fill their shoes from time to time (a VERY well paid secretary am I) and can't believe the amount of work they do and how they professionally put-up with nurses requests and needs (up to 22 RN's a shift)!

There is one on the night shift who can get pretty harried, but we couldn't do our jobs without them. They know the answer to EVERYTHING (non-nursing of course)!!!

Love 'em and appreciate 'em so much....:kiss


Specializes in Hey I'm now an RN!!.

This isn't a ward secretary problem. This is a position just like every other position. There are nurses, doctors, aids, housekeepers etc. who are the exact same way. There are always the good and bad. I know 3 people specifically that I sometimes want to drive my car into a tree rather than to go into work with them. 1 is a WC and the other 2 are RN's. They all set the tone for the floor, just as everyone's attitude does.

I will say that yep I have worked as a ward clerk for 10 years before deciding that I really wanted to be a nurse. In response to this statement-"The majority I've worked with have had some degree of anger issues and were often control freaks-- Don't dare sit in her chair, touch her stuff, look at a chart while she's taking off orders, etc."

I'm sorry to hear that...I don't know where they hire your ward clerks from.

It goes like this, WC's get the brunt of attitude and hostility whether it is intentional or not. If you treat someone with disrespect and treat them as if they are beneath you you will get the same treatment in return. It is not so much of being a "control freak" but when you have 10 charts laying around with orders, people are popping in and out of your seat where you are currently entering orders, signing you out in the middle of you entries to get into the computer, yes that is upsetting. Especially when the next shift finds charts with orders on them that weren't taken off. The WC gets the blame. Being there, doing the job, yes I know it inside and out. And here's a surprise, I am educated, have 2 degrees as a matter of fact. So the next time you feel so inclined to rattle out orders into thin air expecting that the WC has heard you in the midst of tele monitors beeping, doctors asking for labs, families at the desk with questions, nurses wanting calls placed...just remember you are in a line of requests and they are trying to do there best to get it all done for you. It's not just you on the floor.

As a WC I possessed the ability to recognize and set priorities, I made the nurses aware of lab values and results that I came across, possible med errors etc. I would always recheck charts for orders to see if anything had been missed, a mojority of the doctors offered me jobs with their practices. I still have people telling me that I was the best one they ever worked with and want me to come back! They said they never had to worry that issues were not being taken care of because I knew how the floor ran, I knew what labs were indicitive of etc. Was that just a quality I had? Maybe, maybe not, but I see WC's who work the same as I that are treated horribly and my heart breaks for them. WC's work hard, just as hard as everyone else. And do they know the gossip?? You bet they do, the see dozens of people during their shift while they are at the desk, of course they hear a lot. Occupational hazard. You would know too if you were at the desk all shift also. And I do have to say, I know ALOT of nurses AND doctors who participate in gossip...

Long and short of it. Do nurses and doctors have to check their charts for orders and accuracy, of course. But if you walk away with it realize you may not have a WC who will look for it to transcribe the orders and they will get missed amongst the other events of the day. If you are sitting in the WC's seat...you slow progress down that much more. They do have to enter orders and answer phones, make calls some watch monitors etc. It is irritating-just as irritating as pharmacy not sending up meds, doctors monopolizing your time for ego's sake, families riding your back, etc. Asking for petty things like for a call to be placed to a DR while you are sitting smack dab in front of a phone for the next 15 minutes talking about personal issues, also hinders any kind of production. I find that if I say "Lisa, can you call central for me for blah, blah, blah." It gets done and respect is maintained. When I see people bark orders into the air expecting that they are being heard, a majority of things are missed, confused etc. Just address the person by name, make sure they hear you, do it politely as you would with anyone else and you will see results.

I think that a WC should be dressed according to policy, politically correct, knowledgable and a team player. If there are any decrepincies than it needs to be addressed. Just as with any other position. It is not exclusive. You should not feel you have to walk on eggshells while at work with anyone. Period.

I have been a backer of a more professional aura to the secretary position and am happy to say that now where I work if you take a 13 week course and a national exam successfully they will start a WC clerk at $14.50 /hr. Some are seething about it. I say too bad. A majority of WC's work hard with the misconception that they are unintelligent and uneducated. This may give more incentive to a more professional population to work as secretaries. This combined with a no tolerance for rudeness, laziness etc may help this be a more beneficial experience for all. I think we all know what it is like to work with people who do not know or care to follow the expectaions of their job descriptions.

Bottom line-Nurses are responsible for their patients, they shouldn't have to micromanage secretaires and aids to make sure everything is done. Nurses need to check charts, get into computers etc. That's why it is important that these people have medical backround, schooling or otherwise to understand the importance of why they are there. For patient care. Explaining procedures or labs/conditions doesn't hurt either. It just helps the person better grasp why things are done the way they are and why it is important that these things do in fact get done. I am sorry that some of you have been bullied, but that's unacceptable on any level. I find if you give respect you get it in return. On occasion when I have to work with this secretary or these nurses, I am not afraid to address the snide remarks or the attitude that comes across. 2 of them are on their way out anyway...it should make for a more pleasant experience for everyone.


Specializes in ORTHOPAEDICS-CERTIFIED SINCE 89. Has 30 years experience.

In my experience the good outweigh the merely adequate by about 90:1

All I can say is "thank you," and that is NOT enough. I HAVE done my time as a secretary (doctor not hospital) and it is so true no one appreciates what it takes to have an entire staff wanting your attention at once. Thank you Janie, Bonnie, Betty, Kim, Mamie, Annie and all the rest I have been honored to work with.

I sincerely believe there aren't any intentionally bad job holders...but there are those who are mismatched to the position.

Smiling said it much simpler "they are like the general population. There are good, bad and ugly. Mostly GOOD."

There's no need to relate stories about the work someone else does. If they're not doing their job, document, document,document; and if they are tell them THANK YOU!

Don't get me wrong; I treat all the ward clerks with the due respect they deserve. As was mentioned, I ask politely if they can do something or if they are truly busy I will do it myself. I have never treated any of them in a rude manner.

The problem that we have at our hospital is that the ward clerks do not fall under nursing. Several years ago, their boss decided that it wasn't necessary to keep the ward clerks assigned to a specific floor. That seems to be where a lot of ours lost ownership in their work. None of them have truly felt like part of the team on the floors and unfortunately some of the nurses haven't helped by treating them poorly.

Ward clerks are a very important player in a floor's team and DOES deserve respect just as much as anyone else. Sure, clothing doesn't make the person inside, but it is one of the things others first see and get an impression. It's not just in hospitals, but in society in general where "Casual Friday" has invaded all days of the week. A ward clerk should dress more professionally than jeans and t-shirts and yes, it is a dress code issue our hospital needs to address.

And I agree that ward clerks aren't paid what they truly are worth.

bluesky, BSN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care, ER. Has 4 years experience.

I've got a special place in my heart for the unit clerks because I was one myself for 5 years. Most I know are excellent and don't get paid enough. Personally, I like a little attitude. The SICU would be so boring if it weren't for a little personality here and there... :)

LeahJet, ASN, RN

Specializes in ICU,ER. Has 10 years experience.

I have always said that I would rather work short a nurse than a secretary. The (rare) nights that we don't have one...well, it's a disaster. I think I fall under the category of a lot of nurses. I can work a trauma code and all the state of the art medical equipment but I break a sweat trying to transfer a call or work a fax machine. More than once, I caved in under the pressure of transferring a call, cut them off, and then high-tailed it away from the desk when that inevitable follow up ring came... I know, I'm terrible... :)

I remember one US that probably laid the original bricks at the hospital where I worked a few years ago. She was the most tempermental person I have ever known. Not trying to be mean, but she looked like one of the "Far-Side" women.. kind of a bee-hive hairdo and those cateye glasses. She hated for anyone to stand anywhere behind her and had been known to strike at a couple of doctors for not putting the charts in their proper place. One thing I will say about her, she "brought me up right".... I am overly respectful of US's and still find myself cringing when I invade their space.... :)

These are very entertaining stories. I particularly enjoyed Mandarella's eye opening peek into the life of a Ward Clerk from her POV. I can relate to freezing up when I have to transfer a call!:rotfl: But, I finally mastered this high tech task!:chuckle . I am fairly good at putting in orders because I partially work nights, where we don't have a Unit Secretary. But, no one knows the ins and outs of labs like the Ward Clerk! Really, at our small hospital our main WC practically runs the place. She puts the docs in the their places with flippant remarks, etc. Unfortunately, she also is known to tell highly politically incorrect stories, make fun of religious and ethnic groups, etc, not with any ill will, but sometimes offensive. She really needs to be reined in, IMO.

I am so glad I work nights and don't really have two deal with the 2 jerks on day shift. Our HUC's on eves and nights are exceptional and polite.

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