WARD CLERKS (MEDICAL) California Occupational Guide Number 528 Interest Area 13 1998
WARD CLERKS perform receptionist and clerical duties in hospital nursing units. They set up records for new patients. They transcribe physicians' orders from patient records, and copy information such as temperature, pulse rate and blood pressure onto patients' medical records. They prepare requisition forms for laboratory tests, therapy, drugs and supplies for their unit. They record patient diagnoses on the appropriate medical forms. Ward Clerks arrange for the transfer of patients within the unit or to other units. They also process patient discharge forms for the business office and may compile the daily census of patients. Personal computers or computerized hospital information systems are used in the performance of many record-keeping tasks.
Ward Clerks answer telephones and direct calls to medical staff and patients or relay messages as appropriate. They distribute mail, newspapers and flowers to patients. They also greet visitors and direct them to patient rooms. In some facilities they may also be required to perform minor medical assisting tasks similar to those of nursing assistants. They may also transport patients within or to other units of the hospital.
Ward Clerks may be referred to as Ward Secretaries, Floor Clerks, Unit Clerks, Unit Assistants or Unit Secretaries. They are responsible to the head nurse or charge nurse of the unit. The head nurse or charge nurse has final responsibility for patient records.
Hospitals, clinics and nursing facilities in California are using a variety of methods to keep costs down, and this has had an impact on the work of some Ward or Unit Clerks.
Many Ward Clerks are now being cross-trained as Nursing Assistants. In these cases, the duties of these two occupations are performed by one person when the number of patients in a unit is low. The skill levels and knowledge needed for these "blended" workers are significantly more than for traditional Ward Clerks.
Modern hospital and nursing home facilities are well-lighted, heated, ventilated and maintained. Knowledge of hospital procedures and codes is required to respond to emergencies. Occasionally Ward Clerks may have to endure disagreeable sights, odors and unpredictable patient behavior. Although exposure to infection and communicable diseases may be a potential hazard, safety training can reduce these risks. The work requires strong physical stamina, the ability to follow orders, communicate effectively and work well with other members of the unit team and hospital staff.
The health services industry is projected to register some employment gains over the next few years. Employment opportunities for Ward Clerks should increase as more people are able to pay for medical services or are covered by health insurance plans. Projected increases in the elderly population should also increase the demand for medical services and the need for additional Ward Clerks. An increase in the demand for Ward Clerks will result from the increased amount of record-keeping and paperwork mandated by state and federal regulations. However, workers leaving the occupation permanently for retirement or personal reasons will account for slightly more job openings than will industry growth.
Employers indicate that job openings for Ward Clerks occur occasionally and that there is generally little turnover. The supply of qualified applicants seems adequate to meet current needs and employment is expected to remain at the current level. Some employers report difficulty in finding applicants with one to two years of hospital or medical/clerical experience. There is little difficulty, however, in finding applicants who are trained, but have no experience.
WAGES, HOURS, AND FRINGE BENEFITS
Wages for this occupation vary with the size of the hospital, geographic area, and the level of skills required. A current statewide salary survey for Ward Clerks does not exist. However, salary ranges for the larger group General Office Clerks, which includes Ward Clerks, show beginning wages anywhere from minimum wage to $12.79 per hour. Experienced Clerks may earn from minimum wage to $16.43 per hour, and in a few settings earnings may reach up to $18.00 per hour.
Full-time Ward Clerks usually work a five-day, forty-hour work week. They may be assigned to work weekends and evening shifts. Fringe benefits may include vacations, sick leave, group medical and dental insurance, disability, deferred compensation, and retirement plans. Some positions are part-time and require employees to be available to work any shift. Part-time clerks often do not receive fringe benefits.
ENTRANCE REQUIREMENTS AND TRAINING
Basic skills needed for this job are:
Typing/keyboarding skills and knowledge of the Windows environment Knowledge of medical terminology Filing skills Customer service skills Basic grammar, spelling and arithmetic Knowledge of the scheduling, registration, or admission process is helpful
Many employers require previous hospital experience, preferably as a Ward Clerk. Some employers require previous experience as a Nursing Assistant or the ability to provide basic patient care. Some employers will accept applicants with no previous hospital experience who have taken courses in medical terminology, and who have experience and interest in working with the public. Applicants may be tested for basic medical terminology and typing skills.
A high school diploma or its equivalent is required by most employers. High school courses helpful in preparing for this occupation include English, science, health, typing, computer training, and office practices. Many community colleges, Regional Occupational Programs (ROP), adult education programs, business and vocational schools offer computer training and classes in medical terminology.
Promotional opportunities for this position are limited. In large hospitals a person with several years of experience plus administrative skills may advance to the position of hospital admitting clerk, medical records clerk, or nursing office secretary. Hospital job openings are usually circulated to all hospital staff.
FINDING THE JOB
Applicants should apply directly to local hospitals, outpatient clinics, and nursing homes. Additional information about job openings may be obtained from local California Employment Development Department Job Service offices, newspaper classified ads, federal, State, and county personnel offices and private employment agencies. Since many employers fill full-time vacancies for Ward Clerks with existing employees, persons seeking entry into this field may wish to accept part-time work because it may lead to full-time employment.
ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF INFORMATION
The American Hospital Association suggests students and career explorers read current editions of the following books, all found at public and school libraries:
Allied Health Education Directory (Chicago); Committee on Allied Health Education and Accreditation 150 Careers in the Health Care Field, (New Providence, NJ) U.S. Directory Service Introduction to Health Professions, (St. Louis) C.V. Mosby Co.
RELATED OCCUPATIONAL GUIDES
Hospital Admitting Managers and Clerks No. 409 Nurse Aid/Nursing Assistants No. 442 Medical Transcriptionists No. 499
OCCUPATIONAL CODE REFERENCES
DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th Ed., 1991) Unit Clerk 245.362-014 OES (Occupational Employment Statistics) System General Office Clerks 553470
Source: State of California, Employment Development Department, Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group, (916) 262-2162.
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