Health Care Unit Coordinator Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career in health unit coordination? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a health unit coordinator is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Health Unit Coordination

Health unit coordinators are responsible for maintaining patient records and coordinating activities in a healthcare facility. The following pros and cons are worth considering if you think you might want a career as a health unit coordinator.

Pros of a Health Unit Coordinator Career
Only a high school diploma is required*
Can work for many healthcare facilities (hospitals, clinics and nursing homes)*
Good employment outlook*
Variety of administrative, clerical and medical duties***

Cons of a Health Unit Coordinator Career
Many employers want you to have job experience***
Low salary range ($22,000 to $42,000 as of July 2015)**
Must be familiar with medical terminology***
Some employers prefer to hire certified health unit coordinators***

Sources: *South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations, **Payscale, ***June 2012 Job Postings.

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

According to the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations, health unit coordinators maintain patient records, coordinate activities and order supplies (www.healthcareers.sd.gov). You'll be the first person that patients see when they enter the healthcare facility and you're the person they'll talk to when they call to schedule an appointment. June 2012 job postings indicate that you'll schedule appointments, order tests and x-rays on doctor's orders, transcribe orders and assist patients. You may bring patients' food trays, help them bathe and dress, clean equipment and maintain medical records.

Career and Salary Info

Payscale.com reported that most health unit coordinators made a salary range of around $22,000 to $42,000 as of July 2015. In addition, Payscale.com also reported that salaries range depending on experience: health unit coordinators with 0-5 years of experience made $28,000, with 5-10 years of experience they made about $30,000 and with 10-20 years of experience they made $32,000. In Boston, most health unit coordinators earned about $33,000, in Milwaukee they made about $30,000 and in Cleveland they made about $28,000.

Although employment information isn't available for health unit coordinators, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that the employment rate would be above average for people in healthcare positions (www.bls.gov). For instance, the BLS projected that during the 2012-2022 decade, it would increase by 29% for medical assistants, by 25% for licensed practical nurses, by 23% for paramedics and by 19% for registered nurses, so it's also likely that health unit coordinators will also see a high rate of employment growth. You could work for a specific unit, such as an Alzheimer unit, of a hospital. You could also work for a clinic, a public health agency or a nursing home.

Education and Training Requirements

To become a health unit coordinator, you must have at least a high school diploma. Completing a semester-long program at a community college or a vocational school in health unit coordination may be beneficial, according to the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations. Through programs like these, you'll learn how to perform data entry, transcribe physician's orders, order x-rays, obtain lab tests and maintain patient records. These programs also cover medical terminology, keyboarding, using computer software, human anatomy and medical coding. You'll also complete an internship or an externship that will enable you to gain the practical experience in the field that employers are looking for. Upon completion of this certificate program, you should be able to:

  • Identify body parts and functions
  • Schedule tests and appointments
  • Direct patients and organize staff
  • Admit and discharge patients
  • Submit coded medical bills to insurance companies

Job Postings from Real Employers

Health unit coordinators need only a high school diploma, but employers do expect you to have job experience and some positions may require additional training. The following job postings include some information about responsibilities, qualifications and samples of what real employers were looking for as of June 2012:

  • A children's hospital in Houston wanted to hire a health unit coordinator to handle referrals and enter clients' insurance information. The employer wanted someone with data entry skills who has two to five years of experience in a medical or insurance setting. Medical terminology, customer service skills, office skills and bilingual skills are required.
  • A healthcare facility in Minnesota advertised for a health unit coordinator to handle clerical responsibilities, process orders for physicians and fulfill receptionist duties. The employer requires that applicants have at least a high school diploma with a year of experience working in an office. Familiarity with medical terminology and good interpersonal skills are also expected.
  • A West Virginian healthcare facility searched for an alzheimer unit coordinator to run the facility's alzheimer unit, coordinate services, schedule patient interventions, help patients obtain support and offer group meetings for additional support. This employer requires that applicants have a degree as a healthcare professional and that they have a year of experience working with patients who have Alzheimer or dementia.
  • A hospital in Massachusetts was looking for a unit coordinator to run the nursing station, gather information for staff and handle patient administration. A minimum of a high school diploma, a year of hospital experience and computer skills are required by the employer.
  • A North Carolina hospital wanted to hire a skilled unit coordinator to monitor vital signs, administer medications and promote healthy living. The employer expected applicants to have at least a year of experience working in a medical setting.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Get Certified

One of the best ways to stand out as a health unit coordinator is by earning voluntary certification from the National Association of Health Unit Coordinators (www.nahuc.org). You must be a health unit coordinator or have completed the training to take the NAHUC's exam. The exam tests your ability to coordinate a health unit, follow procedures, use equipment and transcribe orders. Earning this certification demonstrates to future employers that you have the appropriate skills for the job and that you're willing to go the extra mile.

Continuing Education

If you have only a high school diploma, you might consider completing a certificate for aspiring health unit coordinators. Associate's degree programs are also available. You could also take not-for-credit classes in keyboarding, transcription or medical terminology. All of these skills are essential for a career as a health unit coordinator, and even if you don't earn a full degree, taking courses on your own shows a willingness to learn and dedication to the job, which could help you stand out.

Alternative Career Paths

Registered Nurse

If becoming a health unit coordinator doesn't seem quite right for you, but you're interested in another position in the medical field, you might consider becoming a nurse. Nurses must earn at least an associate's degree in nursing and the BLS projected that employment would increase by 26% between 2010 and 2020. They give out medicines, prescribe treatments and teach patients how to manage illnesses. The BLS reported that they made a median annual salary of $66,000 as of May 2011 (www.bls.gov). Nurses also need to pass a national licensure exam.

Medical Records and Health Information Technician

With the BLS projecting a 21% growth in employment between 2010 and 2020, becoming a medical records technician could be good career alternative. You must have at least a certificate or an associate's degree in medical billing and coding or a similar program that includes courses in medical coding, medical terminology and healthcare statistics. Responsibilities include reviewing patients' medical records, assigning codes, billing insurance companies, storing client data and recording patient information. As of May 2011, the BLS reported that they made a median annual salary of $33,000.

Medical Transcriptionist

If you're more of a computer person and less of a people person, becoming a medical transcriptionist could be a good alternative for you. You'll listen to the dictations of doctors and other health professionals and transcribe them into reports, letters, test results or other documents. Medical transcriptionists must earn a certificate or an associate's degree that includes studies in healthcare documentation, medical terminology and human anatomy. Certification is also available. The BLS projected that employment would increase by six percent for medical transcriptionists between 2010 and 2020, which is less than average. However, they make a median annual salary of around $33,000 as of May 2011, according to the BLS.

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Purdue University Global

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American InterContinental University

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Saint Leo University

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Grand Canyon University

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Regent University

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Colorado Christian University

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Northcentral University

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