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Unit Clerks Excel at Managing their Time

By: Ronda Payne

Published On: September 18, 2020

Spend a day in a busy health care environment and it becomes apparent, very quickly, that time management is an essential skill for all team members. For those working as a hospital unit clerk, unit clerk in a clinic or unit clerk in another of the many health care settings, time management becomes even more important because of the need to help coordinate the time of others.

In a unit clerk course, students learn that unit clerks are responsible for not only their own time and duties, but also for maintaining the order and schedules of physicians, nurses and/or patients. It’s a big responsibility, but one that a nursing unit clerk program prepares students for.

Ashton College has introduced a unit clerk certificate course that will allow students to enter the health care setting with the skills they need to help keep a health care environment running smoothly. This course is available through Ashton’s Live Online platform so that students have the flexibility of learning from anywhere they have their computer. Time management will come up in the unit clerk course, so do not worry if it has not been a strong skill for you before now. There are ways to improve time management skills once you understand the priorities for a hospital unit clerk or another unit clerk role.

Preparation is Key

Often, when we think about health care, we think about “flying by the seat of our pants” and taking care of the emergencies as best we can. However, there can be steps taken to plan the time or day ahead, which will make it easier to adapt to the emergency situations rather than constantly trying to catch up.

Consider someone who has taken a unit clerk course and is working in a community nursing office. Before the day begins, there is an understanding of which nurses are expected to be working during the day, on which shifts and seeing which patients. Difficulties may arise when a nurse calls in sick, a patient visit goes over time or another patient suddenly needs emergency care.

All of the emergencies, shifts and changes will come in to the unit clerk and there will be a need to make adjustments. The good news is, with the organization skills learned in a nursing unit clerk program, it becomes much easier to make changes to an existing schedule, than to wonder what the next few days will be like when reacting to unexpected issues. Sometimes this involves phoning patients and moving appointments. Other times, it may include contacting team members to see if anyone can come in to cover a shift. It becomes a matter of knowing what is on the schedule, what is a priority and how to move things around to ensure the more important issues are taken care of at the right time.

Patient Care Comes First

At the heart of any unit clerk course is the knowledge that patient well-being comes first, always. However, what that looks like varies. Patients may feel they need care urgently, but they are unaware of what a hospital unit clerk knows. There may be patients with far more severe issues that are already receiving treatment or have come in by ambulance moments before. This could bump someone further down the priority list.

Patient care does not work like Starbucks, where it is a case of purchases being fulfilled in the same order they come in. Instead, patient care is managed based on the most severe cases (life-threatening issues, excessive pain or immediate need) being seen first and the less severe cases are seen in order afterwards.

Not only must a unit clerk be able to help health care practitioners prioritize these cases, they must also be able to direct doctors and nurses while also fielding patient requests and concerns. While life-threatening situations are usually confined to a hospital emergency environment, they may crop up in clinic settings, remote nursing situations and other health care locations. It requires tact, awareness and an understanding of patient concerns in order to keep things running smoothly.

Embrace Technology

It is doubtful that there is a health care office these days that does not make use of technology to track scheduling, manage professionals and help with filing. Of course, some tools are better in certain environments than others. In a unit clerk course, students are exposed to the latest options so that they can go into their career able to manage the software in front of them.

Sometimes software is not being used to its fullest and this is where a unit clerk course, like the one through Ashton College, can be extremely helpful. In the course, students will learn about the various tools available, how they can be applied in a number of health care settings and what parts of these tools make work easier, more organized and efficient.

Set Limits to Maintain a High Level of Care

It can be hard to say no in a work environment, especially for someone in a support or administrative role such as a unit clerk. The very nature of the job is to help others do their jobs efficiently to ensure the best patient care possible. There are times when deadlines and workloads are at their limits and there is a need to say no. If you have to tell someone you cannot help them, do so only after listening to and fully considering their request. Does it take priority over something else on your list of tasks? Is it something you can do quickly and easily? Would it be possible to delegate the task? Consider all possible options and present these before saying no.

When necessary, saying no is your way of ensuring you fulfill your commitments and keep everything in the office running smoothly. This form of time management, like patient communication, takes a lot of tact, practice and strength to be able to do well. Time management skills are essential in a health care setting and having them is another positive aspect you can bring to the job.


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