J Marie Booklets


CNA to Unit Secretary: That Awkward Phase (Video)

I’ve seen these three scenarios play out repeatedly.

·       A CNA/PCA becomes a fulltime Unit Secretary
·       A CNA/PCA gets cross-trained to work as a Unit Secretary
·       A CNA/Nurse Intern finishes nursing school and works as a Unit Secretary until they take and pass their boards.

This is an awkward phase for the CNA and I’ll explain why in this video.  


Decorate Your Unit For the Holidays as a Unit Secretary (Video)

With the holidays upon us, one of the fun things you can do as a Unit Secretary is decorating your unit.

I was told a long time ago that a former secretary in the ICU where I used to work decorated the unit for every holiday. And the storage room where all the decorations were kept backed up their statement.

Another Unit Clerk used to decorate the unit for the hospital-wide Christmas contest. She would make giant snowflakes out of paper and hang them from the ceiling.

I personally didn’t do any decorating. I would just get the Christmas tree and the presents (empty boxes wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper).

The ICU never won any Christmas contests. But one year our sister floor did win by incorporating Spongebob Squarepants into the Christmas mural (the secretary and I eventually took the mural down to unit for the special needs children).


Transferring Patients to Another Hospital (Video)

When a doctor writes an order for a patient to be transferred to another hospital, you may be responsible for copying the patient's chart and/or getting a CD with the patient's test results like their Xray or Ultrasound. 

Watch the video above and tell me what you think. 

Technology Replacing Medical Secretaries? (Video)

When I first started as a Unit Secretary in the early 2000s, I remember deciphering the doctor’s written order and then entering it into the computer.

I also remember walking from the nursing station to the COW (Computer On Wheels) and handwriting the new medication order on the patient’s MAR (Medication Administration Record).

But today, the nurses or the doctor enters the orders (unless it’s written on paper, then the Unit Secretary will enter the orders into the computer).

But is that really technology doing a job that we used to do or did it just get assigned to someone else?

So, how is technology changing the way you do our job? Let me tell you what I’m seeing.

We used to have to go in and email the discharge summary to the 
doctors (who were on a special list that wished to have a record of their patients' hospital visit sent to them), but after about a year, technology (at least that what they said) automatically emailed it to the doctors. It was on less thing for us to do, but it really didn't affect us, because we kept forgetting to go in and email it in the first place, because there were too many steps involved to do it. 

Also, I saw when I went to let lab work drawn at a national laboratory company, and they didn't even have a secretary! You have to sign in on a tablet and wait to be seen.

So, am I worried about there being no Unit Secretaries in the future? No. Because these 4 things below are facts.

  1. There's a shortage of people with previous experience or who actually wants to work as a Unit Secretary
  2. Hospitals are using CNAs/PCAs as secretaries for smaller units
  3. If there is an emergency (think Hurricane, mass shooting, terrorist attack, etc) and you have a large number of patients flooding the Emergency Room, are they going to be signing in on a tablet and sitting and waiting to be called? 
  4. The nurses won't have it or allow it. The hospital once brought in a consulting firm who suggested getting rid of the secretaries on the night shift. Let's just say that that didn't happen. 


Calling in a Hospice Consult as a Unit Secretary (Video)

A doctor placing a Hospice consult on an Oncology Unit or on the Intensive Care Unit is common. It’s usually for people who are at the end of their life or when medical treatment is no longer an option.

Watch the video about to find out what goes on after the order is placed.

How to Prioritize as a Unit Secretary (Video)

One of the things that I stress is to be proactive. And by being proactive, you are in a better position to know which items to prioritize during your workday. 

Calling Clergy as a Unit Secretary (Video)

There are times when a patient/family will request clergy. When the patient is dying or if it's the patient's holy day. 

Every unit has a bookbinder that lists all the local clergy of different religions and denominations, their locations, telephone numbers, and the contact person's name. 

Once I have the right information from the patient/family, I'll get the book and place the call.  Sometimes, I'll have to leave a voicemail, and sometimes I'll speak with someone from the house of worship and provide the name of the hospital, the name of the patient, their Room Number, and the reason (dying or a holy day). That person will usually give me an estimated time that the clergy will arrive. 

Sometimes, I'll go into the room and inform the family or I'll let the nurse know and let them pass it on. 

It's that simple. 

When a Patient Wants a Copy of Their Medical Records (Video)

Whenever a patient wants a copy of their medical records, usually the patient, family member or nurse will ask for a Medical Record Request Form. 

They can either fill out the form and take it down to the Medical Records Department themselves and get their own medical information once they're discharged. 

Or they can fill out the form and give it to you for you to place it directly on the front of the chart. Usually, the patient will write the address where they want the medical records sent (their doctor or themselves). By placing it directly on the front of the chart, when you break the chart down, the first thing that Medical Records will see is that form request and they can get right on top of it.   


3 Tips for New Unit Secretaries (Video)

These are the 3 Tips I would give to the new Unit Secretaries. 

Take good notes during orientation. There will be tests/exams that you will order daily, weekly, or monthly. Then there will be tests/exams that will be ordered once every blue moon. So what you see in orientation may not come around for a while, so that's why it is best to write everything down. 

There are a lot of different personalities in the hospital. From the nurses, doctors, patients, visitors, vendors, etc., people are stressed. One thing that I would recommend is to understand this and walk away when necessary. 

Burnout may happen. You need to know your body and know your limitations. Overtime may be abundant in the hospital setting, and the temptation to get a lot of OT is there. Even if you choose not to work a lot, burnout could still happen. That's why I encourage you to use your PTO (Personal Time Off) and take a vacation. 

Requesting Medical Records From Another Facility (Video)

These are the steps that I take once a doctor enters an order to get medical records from another facility. 

  • Grab the Medical Records Request form. Place a patient label on the form.
  • Write the name of the facility, the city, and the state where it is located, the telephone and fax number. If necessary I'll call the facility and verify the Medical Records Department's fax number or verify by looking on their website. 
  • Fill in the patient's name and Date of Birth. I do not put the patient's Social Security number on the form, even though there's space for it. 
  • The date that the patient was in that facility.
  • I'll write the name of the requesting doctor and what type of record they are requesting  (lab results, x-ray results, discharge summary, etc).
  • I then hand the form to the nurse and wait for them to bring it back to me signed. Once it's signed, I'll get a fax cover sheet, fill in the required information and then fax it. 
  • Once I get a fax confirmation sheet, I'll staple all 3 pieces of paper together and place it in the front of the patient's chart. 
  • Sometimes the other facility will fax the paperwork back to the unit and sometimes they'll fax it to the Medical Records Department within the hospital. 

My Adventure in the OR as a Unit Secretary (Video)

In the above video, I'll share with you my adventure in the OR supply room, a place that I had never been to, but the two surgeons were depending on me.

In the ICU, the Neurosurgeon decided that he needed to do a bedside procedure on the patient. He had a General/Vascular Surgeon in the room with him. They realized that they needed a piece of equipment and it was located in the main Operating Room's supply closet.  

It was a Sunday afternoon and the main OR was running on a skeleton crew, and so was the ICU. There was only one person who could leave the unit to go get the part.


But I had never been down in the main OR, let alone to the supply room, but there I was gowning up and taking the special elevator down. 

I could hear people talking as they were performing surgery. 

I found the supply room and walked on in. I knew the name of what I was looking for, but after what seemed like forever I couldn't find it.   

I took the elevator back up to the ICU and placed a housecall to an OR Tech that I know, who had worked down in the main OR when times were slow in the other OR.  She knew where the equipment was located and was willing to talk me to it. 

So, I grabbed a portable hospital telephone, gowned up again, and took the special elevator back down to the OR. 

Even though the reception was fuzzy, she talked me to the piece of equipment needed. I grabbed two different sizes and up the elevator, I went. 

I took it into the patient's room where everyone was waiting. That's when General/Vascular Surgeon realized they needed something else from the supply room!

But this time he decided to go with me because he knew exactly what it was called and what it looked like. 

So together, the two of us gowned up and rode the elevator down to the OR. It did take us a minute to find it, but we did.

All in total, I spent about an hour from the first time I went down to when I was finally able to sit back down and answer the ringing telephone. 
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