A ward clerk is an administrative assistant who works at a hospital or medical clinic. He or she is responsible for creating and updating patient files when they receive care. A ward clerk also answers phones and provides helpful information for visitors and patients. Most ward clerks receive on-the-job training to become familiar with medical terminology, specialized computer systems, and paperwork techniques. Since most hospitals are open around the clock, a ward clerk might work day, evening, or overnight shifts on weekdays or weekends.
Ward clerks are very knowledgeable about the layout of their hospital or wing. They keep track of vacant examining rooms so new patients can be quickly moved to appropriate areas in the hospital, allowing doctors and nurses to be more efficient in their rounds. Clerks process medical history and insurance forms filled out by patients or their guardians upon admittance into the hospital, and create both paper and electronic patient files.
Nurses and doctors record information about a patient's symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment received on specialized forms. A ward clerk transcribes a completed form and enters data into the patient's file. It is essential for the clerk to understand common medical terminology, abbreviations, and different types of medications to accurately process patient records. When an individual is discharged, the clerk records the date and time of dismissal and passes on information to medical billing and coding specialists.
In addition to keeping patient files, a ward clerk also acts as a receptionist. He or she answers phones, pages doctors and nurses, and directs visitors to patients' rooms. A clerk is usually expected to be friendly, helpful, and efficient to help lift spirits and maintain order in a busy hospital. In most settings, ward clerks receive training to administer first-aid and check patients' vital signs in situations where no other medical personnel are immediately available.
A high school diploma is usually the minimum requirement to become a ward clerk. Some large hospitals prefer to hire new clerks who have previous experience in health care or customer service settings. A new ward clerk receives on-the-job training from experienced nurses and clerks who can explain policies, procedures, and computer programs.
Ward clerks have ample room for advancement with experience, proven skills, and continuing education. A professional may be promoted to a supervisory position, overseeing other clerks and making important decisions when difficulties arise. Many clerks choose to attend nursing or medical school while working part-time to pursue other careers in the health-care industry.