HOSA E-magazine Spring 2015 - page 20

The Health Unit Coordinator-
The “Back Stage” Member of
Nadine Stratford, CHUC
Communications Director, NAHUC
When a patient is admitted to the hospital, they and their families know they will have a team of nursing staff,
physicians and staff from other departments “on stage” providing care during their hospitalization. What they usually
don’t realize is that there is another member of this team who takes part in their care behind the scenes-the Health Unit
Coordinator (HUC).
The Health Unit Coordinating profession evolved during World War II as a result of the shortage of nurses and
physicians on the home front, in order to assume the “non-clinical” duties involved with patient care, such as
assembling charts and answering phones. The first recorded documentation of this position, titled “floor secretary”
appeared in a medical journal in Pennsylvania in the 1940’s, and stated that initially the position was viewed with
skepticism, but was soon was embraced wholeheartedly. Over the years, the name has gone through many changes
ranging from ward secretary, ward clerk, unit secretary and unit clerk to the present title of Health Unit Coordinator,
which more aptly describes what this position does: coordinate the non-clinical aspects of patient care. This title is
recognized by the American Hospital Association, which also includes National Health Unit Coordinator Day on August
23rd on its yearly calendar.
The Health Unit Coordinator today has many duties associated with the delivery of quality health care. Even before
the patient arrives, the HUC is hard at work facilitating that the patient’s room is ready, supplies are available, and
assembling the necessary documentation for the record of the patient’s stay, either electronically or hard chart. After
the patient is on the unit, the HUC ensures that the orders written by the physician for tests, diets, treatments and other
therapies are communicated, keeps unit and other records up to date, and makes certain that the patient is accurately
billed for services and supplies used while on the nursing unit. The HUC is usually the first person the patients, families
and visitors speak to when arriving on or calling the nursing unit, and is also the resource utilized by staff when they
need questions answered or something located. When the patient is ready to leave the hospital, the HUC makes sure
that all involved have the information needed to make sure the patient’s discharge goes smoothly.
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