Be a Health Unit Coordinator: Education and Career Roadmap

Oct 20, 2021

Research the requirements to become a health unit coordinator. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career as a health unit coordinator.

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What Are Health Unit Coordinators?

Health unit coordinators, sometimes referred to as ward clerks, perform administrative duties in specific units of health care facilities or hospitals. They act primarily as a liaison between patients, nurses, and doctors, and may perform tasks such as scheduling appointments and procedures, transcribing medical orders, organizing medical files and helping patients complete medical forms. This occupation may become stressful when dealing with nervous or demanding patients.

Career Requirements

Education Required Minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent required; apprenticeship, certificate, diploma and associate degree programs are available
Field of Study Health unit coordinator
Certification Voluntary certification is available from the National Association of Health Unit Coordinators
Key Skills Customer service, communication, time management and clerical work; should be able to use accounting, database, scheduling, patient management and spreadsheet software programs; knowledge of basic pharmacology, anatomy, physiology and medical terminology, HIPAA laws, patient rights, and advanced directives; capable of completing and filing patient records and helping patients complete insurance and other medical forms
Salary (2016) $35,619 (median annual salary of health unit coordinators)

Sources: O*Net Online, U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration, Bellevue College and Waukesha County Technical College, National Association of Health Unit Coordinators,

Steps for Health Unit Coordinators

What steps do I need to take to be a health unit coordinator?

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

Aspiring health unit coordinators will need a high school diploma or its equivalent to meet employer requirements or gain admission to postsecondary training programs. Basic computer and English classes could help students develop the skills they'll need to excel in their postsecondary coursework.

Step 2: Complete a Health Unit Coordinator Training Program

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration, health unit coordinator is an apprenticeable position. This means that aspiring coordinators can participate in an apprenticeship to learn the trade. An apprenticeship includes a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction. On-the-job training is usually paid, and both classroom and on-the-job training are provided through the employer. Apprenticeship programs are offered through states and private organizations. However, apprenticeships may not be available everywhere.

Other training options include certificate, diploma, and associate degrees available through community colleges and adult education centers. Diploma programs usually require 16 credits of study in coordinator procedures, computing for health care and terminology. A certificate program typically includes approximately 50 credits of study in subjects such as medical law and ethics, human systems, medical terminology, and computer use in the career.

You will want to develop your communication skills. Health unit coordinators must interact with patients, patients' families, and medical professionals. Developing communication skills while in a training program can make these interactions easier.

Step 3: Earn Certification

The National Association of Health Unit Coordinators offers certification to individuals who have a high school diploma or the equivalent and who are currently working as health unit coordinators or have completed a training program. To become certified, individuals must pass an exam administered by the Applied Measurement Professionals. Certification must be renewed every three years.

Health unit coordinators perform administrative duties and act as liaisons between patients, nurses, and doctors in healthcare facilities. They have special training for their positions, medical and legal knowledge, and strong customer service and communication skills. And they earn a median annual salary of $35,619.

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