The History and Research of Health Unit Coordinator

Clover Park Technical College

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Brandy Richardson

The History of Health Unit Coordinator

I am going to give you the reader, an in depth look at my future career and what Health Unit Coordinating is and how it became along with an interview from Miss Clarissa English Snow from one of the top hospitals in Pierce County, WA. This will help you understand the responsibilities of a Health Unit Coordinator (Desk Nurse) VS. Registered Nurse or a Licensed Practical Nurse.

But how did this all begin, before there were Certified Nurse Assistances, Registered Nurse Assistances, Licensed Practical Nurses, Advanced Registered Nurses etc. and the College Certification Program offered at many local Community and Technical College’s for Health Unit Coordinator? Between research and interview, I have completed nearly 8 pages of resourced information to help determine a better understanding of who exactly health unit coordinators are, where they stand in the medical field, what their mail objective is, and when it all came into play.

In today’s Hospitals, Private Practices, Nursing Homes etc. many now include Unit Secretary’s in which we generally call Health Unit Coordinators. Also known as HUC, these men or woman are the ‘unit managers’ or ‘floor clerk’s’, they help both Nurses and Physicians in their typical daily duties and watching heart monitors. Varying from Hospital to Hospital will depend on what type of duties you may be responsible of. None of this came into play before a certain time though, but when? Well, let me help you . . .

The History of Health Unit Coordinator

Before World War 2 had emerged many Hospitals were only staffed with Physicians, Nurses, Laboratory Technicians and Specialists and a few support personnel, doctors only made house calls. Crazy right? Even though this made it slightly difficult for them to work in the surrounding due to lack of personnel it was harder once World War 2 finally started in 1939. With the new war brought more people in the line of action against all odds in fighting, this made it difficult for them during times of need for more personnel when the Hospitals became over ran with casualties. Nurses would end up doing Physicians duties to help keep the flow, such as blood pressure, pulse and IV Therapy.

By the early 1940’s many Hospitals had hired on nurses specifically for “desk” duties to help limit the responsibilities from the Physicians and Nurses on the floor units. Whether it would be in the Emergency Dept., Oncology Dept. This would help the Modern Hospital establish a better working environment by relieving stress on Physicians and Nurses. By doing this it would boost the economic growth through out the years. Giving men or woman the chance to come to America and live their dream, or even moving across the country to another state and start a new life. This would provide the United States with many types of finical funding over the years once Medicade and Medicare kicked in as well.

The History of Health Unit Coordinator

Surly after World War 2 a new era came for many unemployed man and woman, as well as Hospital staff. The duties for ‘desk nurses’ had continued to grow and became known as ‘ward clerks’. In the 1950 the ward clerks were now being trained to transcribe Physician orders. But by the 1960’s a whole new turn came, Educational Programs for Health Unit Coordinators finally went into place. An article in Nursing Outlook by Ruth Stryker had described that a small study on hospital functions with secretary and ward managers resulted in the “implementation of a hospital station.” With a new name suggestion from Miss Stryker of “ Station Coordinator” due to a large deal of managing and form of coordination.

In the 1970’s the founding president Myrna Lafleur an instructor of NAHUC from Phoenix, would determine the exact kind of unit coordinating programs for local Community and Technical Colleges and some adult education centers in the United States. Myrna Lafleur had put a total of 52 technical and community/educational centers to offer this “Health Unit Coordinating” Program. But not all 50 of the states had participated in the program Myrna Lafleur had to offer them. While in a conference in the 1980’s, Mrs. Lafleur had asked a group of Managers and Unit Coordinators about their curiosity and feelings about forming an association for Health Unit Coordinators.

By the time she had gone back home and responded to the men and woman of the groups, she found many interests of this possible association. Myrna Lafleur, and others now, lead this association called National Association of Health Unit Coordinators. By 1991 approximately 15,000 Health Unit Coordinators were certificated.

The History of Health Unit Coordinator
Economic Growth, State and National Trends

Since the mid 1980’s and even today’s standards have raised the bar and have included national associations, formal education such as your High School Diploma, GED, Continuing Education, understanding of Code of Ethics, This six-month through one-year course offers Medical Terminology, Anatomy & Physiology, Code of Ethics, Unit Management and much more. Upon completion students are able to take their certification for NAHUC and become a member of the association. This membership/certification does not expire for three years.

Many people who end up applying to go to school for either HUC or Nursing drop out due to the physical and emotional toll they don’t realize that this career takes on a person. The fact that you have to hold yourself together day in and day out, is one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. Long crazy hours sometimes can drive a person to physical exhaustion and cause them to quit.

In Washington State (Pierce County) Health Unit Coordinators receive pay that is almost double the minimum wage depending on your employment background. Someone with prior background would fall under one of two categories of $18.14-$21.83 per hour. None experienced will fall under one or two categories of $13.70- $15.79 per hour. Percentage rate from 2010 to 2020 in Washington is expected to go up 22%. Nationally, it is suppose to go up by 41% by 2020. The median for Washington State Health Unit Coordinators pays is $18.14 per hour and $37,700 per year. On a national average the median is only $15.07 per hour, $31,300 per year. Big difference isn’t it?

The Interview

While I know a number of friends and family who have all chosen to become Health Unit Coordinators, I chose one women who stand out the most. Miss. Snow While I asked her a series of questions, knowing she has worked different floors two different Departments and different career aspects in mind. I sat down with her and explained what I needed this interview for. I told her what my intentions were going into the Health Unit Coordinator Program and how I someday wish to see myself as a Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner, maybe even going into Hematology-Oncology Research strictly for Cancer studies.

With Miss Snow, I asked a round of six questions pertaining to the ICU and Neurology Department. She stated she works in those two departments at one of the Hospitals in Pierce County, WA. Being her main goal was only to get her foot in the door in a local hospital, she opted for a Health Unit Coordinator position, she had no clue what she was in for, she finally landed a Per Diem (on call) position at said Hospital. As a Monitor Tech, she watches the Heart Monitors and shifts between floors, manages phones, pages people when needed and directs family or visitors when they are lost. Miss Snow: “I love my job, it’s such a rush. It keeps me on my toes”

Snow says the only down sides to her job is when the Nurses are rude to her or other HUC, when they have a bad day they tend to take it out on the HUC’s
“because we’re not actual Nurses”. We get it, we didn’t go to a four-year college, but that’s ok. “We’re helping the patients just as much as you are that is what counts in my eyes.”

The Interview
Clarissa Snow

Even though they give attitude and may tend to constantly remind me what my duties are, I just simply smile and nod then say: “Ok thank you for reminding me”. I know I must abide by the rules and keep my say shut on my end because they are my superiors. Snow has stated her greatest weakness has been to not speak up at times when she should have. She gets along with everyone in her units and is able to smile at everyone who approaches her regardless of what has gone on during her shift or outside of her workday.

Snow states she applied for the ICU/Neurology ICU because it was the best position for her, an area she knew well, exceeded in while in school especially. She knew she could get the job, the only down side was working Per Diem for two and a half years but finally landing a full time position in 2013 of May. She tells me that it’s not uncommon for entry level HUC to experience this, unless you have “the in” inside a hospital or some sort of facility.

Generally speaking Snow says that major Hospitals and Facilities are some of the hardest to get into. That only an average of 7% of who apply will actually get interviewed and only 2% of who have been applied will be hired in a one-year span. “Many Hospitals and Facilities try to keep you around for as long as they can, just so they don’t have to do the probation periods all over again. It’s a pain for Human Resources”

Cited Sources

National Association of Health Unit Coordinators, INC

Career Info Net Web page.

Career Info Net
“Miss Snow”