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How to Become a Health Unit Coordinator in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a health unit coordinator. Learn about certification and education requirements, job duties and salary to find out if this is the career for you.

What Does a Health Unit Coordinator Do?

Health unit coordinators are administrative professionals that help link patients and healthcare providers. While job duties vary from office to office, these professionals typically manage patient records, order X-rays, handle incoming and outgoing phone calls and transcribe medical orders as needed. Health unit coordinators are the ones patients talk with if they require additional medical assistance and will handle all scheduling between doctors and their patients.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required High school diploma or GED, certificate or associate's degree preferred
Education Field of Study Health unit coordinator or related field
Key Responsibilities Transcribe medical orders, maintain patient records, order X-rays, perform traditional administrative tasks like answer phones and deliver messages
Certification Certification is voluntary
Job Growth (2018-2028) 16% growth (for all medical secretaries)*
Median Salary (2019) $39,064**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com

What Is a Health Unit Coordinator?

A health unit coordinator is a professional who provides an array of administrative and management support functions in patient care environments. Job titles that are commonly synonymous with 'health care coordinator' include ward clerk, hospital service coordinator, unit clerk and unit secretary. One of your primary duties as a health care coordinator is to serve as a link between the healthcare staff and patients. Your responsibilities can include transcribing medical orders, answering telephones, greeting visitors, maintaining patient records, ordering x-rays and delivering messages.

Step 1: Get Trained

As an entry-level health unit coordinator, you typically need a high school diploma or GED certificate. While some employers offer on-the-job training, the Mississippi Hospital Association and the Florida Area Health Education Centers Network report that most employers prefer candidates with formal postsecondary training. The National Association of Health Unit Coordinators (NAHUC) lists approved diploma, certificate and associate degree programs available through vocational schools and community colleges.

The duration of certificate programs vary, with some lasting five quarters, or a slightly more than one year. Targeted coursework covers diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, information processing and health unit coordinator basics. Through an associate's degree program, you receive more advanced training through coursework on health management information systems, medical terminology, pharmacology, unit coordinator practicum and electronic health records. Some associate's degree and certificate programs may provide supervised fieldwork through internships.

Step 2: Consider Certification

Certification is voluntary, but recommended. It shows a certain level of proficiency in the skills and knowledge required to be healthcare unit coordinator. NAHUC provides certification upon passing a 120-question examination administered through Applied Measurement Professionals, Inc..

Step 3: Acquire Work Experience

You would be able to provide services in variety of settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, clinics, rehabilitation facilities and government agencies. Payscale.com reported in November 2019 that health unit coordinators earned a median annual salary of $39,064. According to the most recent data available from the Florida Area Health Education Centers Network, the annual national average salary for health unit coordinators was $25,400 as of 2009.

Step 4: Join a Trade Association

By joining a trade association, you would gain access to industry updates, professional networking opportunities and continuing education programs. National trade organizations that you can join include NAHUC and the American Health Information Management Association.

Step 5: Complete Continuing Education

Continuing education is required for recertification. Staying current will also keep you abreast of new technologies, industry guidelines, legislative measures and other information that would affect your daily activities. Some employers facilitate continuing learning opportunities for qualified workers.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you're unsure that becoming a health unit coordinator is right for you, but are still interested in working in the medical field, you may want to consider becoming a pharmacy technician or a medical record and health information technician. Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists in distributing medications to patients or health professionals and are only required to have a high school diploma for employment. Medical record and health information technicians deal less with patients and more with health information data than health unit coordinators do. Employment is easily obtained with a post-secondary non-degree award.