Pros and Cons of a Being a Hospital Secretary
Hospital secretaries may perform duties ranging from assisting medical staff with reports and transcribing dictation to completing patient forms and preparing the paperwork needed for hospital admittance. Here are some of the pros and cons to help you decide if this career is right for you.
|PROS of Being a Hospital Secretary|
|Solid growth field (12% growth between 2012-2022)*|
|Can work in an office or from home as a virtual assistant|
|Many job opportunities due to secretaries who move into other positions or professions*|
|CONS of Being a Hospital Secretary|
|Pay is average (median hourly wage was $15.93 in 2013)*|
|Must obtain specialized education in areas such as medical terminology and insurance billing*|
|Some jobs are being taken over by medical assistants who are assuming more secretarial duties*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Job Duties, Salary and Career Info
A hospital secretary performs some of the same basic functions of other administrative professionals; although, often with some variation. Many of the skills needed for this job can be obtained on the job or through educational programs.
As a hospital secretary, some of your daily activities can include arranging hospital admissions, as well as greeting and directing visitors. You'll also answer phones, deal with basic inquiries or route calls to the appropriate staff member or department. You may perform patient interviews and complete their case information, insurance forms or hospital intake forms.
Some doctors may ask you to prepare their correspondence or type up reports. You'll also need to follow hospital protocol in filing paperwork, maintaining records and keeping patient information secure. You may also have to use office equipment, such as fax machines, copiers and computers.
Salary and Career Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2010, there were over 490,000 secretaries employed in the medical field earning an average annual salary of around $32,000. The top two industries with the highest level of employment in the field were general medical and surgical hospitals and physician's offices.
The five top paying states for the occupation in 2010 were the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Alaska, Washington and Nevada. Based on the BLS' projected increase in employment of 27% between the years 2008 and 2018, medical secretarial positions in any type of setting can offer you many employment and promotional opportunities.
What Are the Requirements?
According to the BLS, you may qualify for entry-level secretarial employment as a high school graduate; however, some training in the medical field is typically necessary. You can acquire this training through high school educational programs, vocational schools, technical schools or community colleges. Some placement agencies also offer formal training in secretarial skills, and most hospital secretary positions will require that you learn medical terminology before hiring you.
Computer-related skills can include word processing and medical specific software programs. You may also need knowledge in using database software. Some of the general office skills you'll need in this field include:
- Customer service skills
- Administrative knowledge and clerical skills
- Ability to understand medical-related information and reading comprehension
- Communication skills, both verbal and written
- Attentive service skills and the ability to help patients
Job Postings from Real Employers
Besides strong secretarial skills, most employers also seek candidates who possess good interpersonal skills. The following are some job listings from a national employment website showcasing some of the experience, skills and qualifications hospitals were looking for in February 2012:
- A St. Louis, MO, hospital sought an administrative assistant with 3-5 years of experience working in a medical atmosphere or a graduate from a secretarial training program or a combination of professional training and real world experience. Experience working with various office equipment, strong typing and computer skills and the ability to maintain patient confidentiality was preferred.
- A New Jersey hospital was looking for a part-time administrative assistant (twenty hours per week) to provide secretarial and office support to its staff. Proficiency in Microsoft Office products and experience working on the Internet were preferred.
- Another New Jersey hospital needed a unit secretary to coordinate a nursing station. Administrative duties included transcribing orders, answering the telephone and interacting with physicians. This employer preferred national secretarial certification and EKG monitor technician program completion.
How to Stand Out in the Field
The BLS stated that secretaries who earned the prominent Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) and the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) designations can have more potential opportunities for career advancement. You can achieve these certifications by meeting specific educational and experience requirements and passing an exam.
Continue Your Education
The BLS also stated that in the secretarial field, employers may seek those who possess a degree, particularly for administrative support to higher-level executives. You may gain an advantage by obtaining a business or occupational degree before entering the hospital secretarial field.
Other Career Paths to Consider
There are quite a few careers inside and out of the medical field that require many of the same skills used in hospital secretarial positions. A few of these options may require additional training.
Billing and Posting Clerk
According to the U.S. Department of Labor's CareerOneStop, an occupation related to hospital secretary is a billing and posting clerk. This occupation typically entails accounting, computing, record compilation and the invoicing of bills. Many of the same abilities are needed in this position as in a medical secretary position, like clerical, computer and customer service skills; although mathematical skills are often a necessity.
Insurance Claims Clerk
Another related occupation you can explore is insurance claims clerk. This occupation includes applying the correct insurance rating, calculating claims amounts and preparing the insurance claim with the correct documentation and information. You may also have to provide customer service like investigating claim issues or reviewing policies for coverage.
Another related career path is that of a medical transcriptionist. According to the BLS, about 36% of these employees work in hospitals and medical settings. Training specifically in medical transcription is preferred by most employers. In this job, you'll use transcription equipment to listen to and type a doctor's recorded notes. These notes may be used in reports, medical histories, discharge summaries, operative reports or any other medical documentation.