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What Does a Unit Secretary Do?

By J. Beam
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A unit secretary is an individual who works within a medical facility performing administrative and support functions as a member of a medical care team. Sometimes referred to as a unit clerk or medical secretary, most unit secretaries are found in the various units, wings, or floors of hospitals. The actual job title, roles and levels of responsibilities vary from facility to facility depending on the state and/or country where the medical facility is located. In all cases, however, the unit secretary is relied upon to perform administrative support functions in a medical setting.

Some of the responsibilities of a unit secretary include entering patient information into the hospital computer, including admission information, physician orders, and other relevant data. They also answer phone calls, direct visitors, retrieve supplies and support the medical staff that provides direct patient care. While unit secretaries do not provide direct patient care, they are counted on to provide support to those who do.

The required training and education for a unit secretary will vary with each hospital or facility. In most cases, some degree of medical administrative training or experience is required. Some facilities may require previous experience in a medical setting, while others may require unit secretaries to have completion of a certificate or degree program in health information technology. Some hospitals have been known to provide training for their unit secretaries or clerks.

The necessary skills for being a unit secretary include knowledge of medical facility operations, computer skills, attention to detail and a willingness to be helpful and supportive. Unit secretaries are charged with helping a hospital unit or department to function efficiently and run smoothly by ensuring patient records are kept accurate and updated, working with nurses to communicate with other staff members, and organizing the admissions and discharge procedures for patients. They may be counted on by direct care staff to help fill orders and maintain unit supplies.

In many hospitals, the unit secretaries have education and training in allied health fields and may even be pursuing careers in direct patient care. An interest in health care is obviously necessary for this role, but some people find the environment to be stressful. A job as a unit secretary or clerk may be a good opportunity for those interested in pursuing a medical career, but undecided as to which specific field to enter. Working in a hospital unit in an administrative support role gives insight into the inner workings of acute care facilities and provides good experience for those interested in pursuing a career in the medical field.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1004893 — On May 12, 2021

They are there to guide you to where you need to go, doctor, nurse, etc. They get all your information, and fill out your papers, sometimes dealing with your insurance etc. They are there to admit you as well. They are usually the first person you see when you go in.

By ZipLine — On Aug 03, 2014

I used to think that unit secretaries were regular secretaries, but they're really not. They are familiar with medical terminology and I think that most are required to take some classes to be a health unit secretary. So just about anyone cannot go on to be a unit secretary. Although the secretarial tasks are the same, unit secretaries need some additional knowledge about hospitals and how they function. They also need to understand the terminology used in the paperwork.

By ddljohn — On Aug 02, 2014

@bluedolphin-- Yes, the person at the front desk is usually a unit secretary. They are the point of contact between the patient and the doctor. They admit patients, give them the necessary forms, help with billing, etc. There are usually many unit secretaries in large hospitals, taking care of paperwork and other administrative tasks in each unit.

When someone goes in to a hospital, for example, to the emergency room. They may assume that the person at the front desk is a nurse and will start describing their ailment. And they will get the clarification "I'm not a nurse." Of course, in true emergencies, a nurse or doctor will be there immediately to start treating the patient. The unit secretary's job, in this sense, is to guide the patient based on how ill he or she is.

By bluedolphin — On Aug 02, 2014

When we go to a hospital, the person at the front desk, is that a unit secretary? Are they the first ones we interact with or do they usually work in an office elsewhere?

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