Best Options After Taking a Unit Clerk Course

People who love to help others and want to do so in the health care sector are the ideal candidates for taking a unit clerk course. Not only do unit clerks assist the doctors, nurses and others in a health care unit, they are also often the first point of contact for patients, families and friends, so serve an essential role in the integration of health care delivery and human relations. 

A nursing unit clerk program like the one offered by Ashton College supports those looking to establish themselves in a new career with not only the education and skills training required in the field, but also with information about job expectations and what the future may hold. Students who take a unit clerk course can rest assured that their investment in their education is a great choice as the health care field continues to grow, diversify and have a significant need for more qualified team members

Job prospects for unit clerks

According to WorkBC, a provincial labour market reference, job openings will continue to grow. While the majority of jobs (about 62%) from now to 2029 are expected to be replacement of retiring workers, the growth in need for individuals who have taken a unit clerk course is significant. More than 38% of the job openings from now to 2029 will be due to economic expansion. This represents about 730 new jobs in the field along with the 1,170 other expected openings due to retirements. 

The majority of these jobs in BC are expected to be in the Lower Mainland region followed by Vancouver Island, then the Thompson-Okanagan region. Other regions, such as Cariboo and Kootenay will also experience growth, just with lower job opening numbers. However, all regions of BC are expected to have growth in the number of unit clerk jobs in the range of 1.3% to 2%.

BC is not the only province or territory in Canada seeing this kind of positive job growth for unit clerks. With a number of schools nation-wide, including Vancouver-based Ashton College, now offering nursing unit clerk programs, it’s clear that this is a growing field with abundant options. 

The salary for those who take a unit clerk course is reasonable, with the median salary for the province sitting at $47,840. The hourly wage goes up to about $35 an hour depending upon training, experience, job description, location and other factors. Obviously someone who takes a unit clerk course, and is able to contribute to a health care team immediately, is more likely to earn a higher wage than those without the education and training. 

Expected duties of a unit clerk

Those who successfully complete a nursing unit clerk program should already have an understanding of the type of segment in health care in which they wish to work. This outlook would come from a practicum component of their education program, which ultimately, is a very important part of the schooling as it allows students to mesh their learning with hands-on application. They will also have a much better appreciation of what different segments require from their unit clerk, allowing them to select which job openings are best for their personality and skills. 

In addition to a practicum, prospective students should look for a unit clerk course that includes an overview of the unit clerk role in health care settings, medical terminology, pharmacology and understanding physician, lab, diagnostic and surgical orders. This education structure is based on the environments where students can expect to work and what their day-to-day duties are likely to include. 

While every health care unit will have its own unique demands of a unit clerk, there are some overlapping aspects. The role is primarily office or health care facility based and includes settings like a medical clinic, regional nurses’ unit, hospital unit, patient transfer service, health unit or others. 

Duties include working as a hub for a unit to ensure that both team members and patients (as well as their loved ones) receive the information they need in a timely fashion. Therefore, one of the first duties is communication. This includes scheduling appointments, greeting patients, updating records, providing information to unit team members, interacting with other health care resources (specialists, diagnostic sources, surgeons, GPs, etc.) and preparing reports and correspondence as needed. 

Additionally, a unit clerk will assist patients with completing paperwork, ensure supplies are replenished as needed and assisting with various office procedures and routines. 

The changing face of health care in Canada

Part of the reason that unit clerks will be in even higher demand going forward is that the Canadian population is aging and health care is shifting to meet this need. Seniors are living longer, healthier and more active lives, so their health care needs will look dramatically different from that of their parents. There will be more of a focus on prevention and the integration of health care providers making the communication role of a unit clerk essential not just to the health care provider’s understanding but to the well-being and overall outcome of a patient’s needs. 

Previously (and now in a very small number of cases) unit clerks could get by with a high school graduation. Now, the majority of roles have a requirement for post-secondary education such as a nursing unit clerk program or another health care related program. Unit clerks also require a strong aptitude for computers, excellent organizational skills and above average communication skills. 

Those looking to break into the role of unit clerk may consider starting as a medical office receptionist or assistant in a general practice physician environment or in a records capacity at a larger facility such as a hospital. However, due to the exposure to the field through a practicum, it is more likely that students who take a unit clerk specific course will be able to move directly into a unit clerk role.

Unit clerks can expect a fast-paced, rewarding environment filled with a wide range of patients and individuals in the health care field. It’s the ideal job for someone who wants to help others and can see themselves doing so in a heath care-related environment. 

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