Traci Chow

Revamped Hospital Unit Coordinator program returns to VIU after two-year hiatus

April 4, 2022
Author: Eric Zimmer

The program was put on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A newly revamped Hospital Unit Coordinator (HUC) program at Vancouver Island University (VIU) is proving to be a success, as the first cohort of students to come through the program in two years prepare to graduate this spring.

The program, formerly a six-month, part-time program was paused at the onset of COVID-19, due to challenges associated with conducting it solely online.

Now, with its return, the updated program is offered as a 12-week, full-time, blended program that gives students the knowledge and skills to work in the medical administration field. Classes are a combination of online and in-person sessions for the first nine weeks, followed by a three-week practicum in hospitals and clinics within Island Health and the Provincial Health Services Authority. As a full-time program, it is now also eligible for student loans. The first cohort of the updated offering will see 16 students graduate this spring.

HUCs – also referred to as Nursing Unit Assistants (NUA)s or Hospital Unit Clerks – perform a variety of tasks in a number of different positions including:

  • Patient Placement Clerk
  • Nursing Unit Assistant, Residential Services
  • Hospital Unit Coordinator
  • Admitting Clerk
  •  Bed Control Clerk - Patient Registration
  • Booking Clerk & Modality Assistant - Medical Imaging
  • Clerk - Reception & Image Service Centre - Medical Imaging

“Hospital Unit Coordinators are highly in demand right now in Island Health and the Provincial Health Services Authority,” says Program Coordinator Karen Blackman, noting that these jobs are unionized and include benefits, and that program graduates enjoy a high rate of employment.

“It is very rewarding for all of us to see the fruits of our labour through the success of our students, many of whom have found immediate employment within Island Health,” she adds. “The feedback we’ve had from our practicum sites has been incredibly positive, with mentors and supervisors reporting that our students have been well prepared and eager to embrace their new and challenging roles,” she adds.

Among these students is Traci Chow, who plans to pursue a full-time career as a hospital unit clerk.

“My experience in the program was great,” she says. “I’ve wanted to do this program for so long, and I’m happy to have been able to do so at VIU in such a condensed, hands-on program. I really enjoyed the small class size, so our instructors could get to know us and connect with us more personally.”

As part of the program, the students were recently given a tour of Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, an experience Chow says was among the program highlights for her.

“Although every unit and site will differ, I got a great understanding of how things will likely look in the real world,” she adds.

“We were very happy to welcome our first NUA class from VIU in two years,” says Marci Ekland with Island Health. “Students had the opportunity to meet – and create connections – with our leadership team.”

And as the students toured the hospital, “the excitement exhibited from staff was palpable,” she adds.

Now, with their practicums nearly at an end, students like Traci – who did hers at Royal Jubilee Hospital – have already secured employment after they graduate.

"They're hiring me," she says. "My mentor vouched for me because she was impressed with my ability to do the work. Lucky for me, they have a temporary – possibly and hopefully turning into permanent – part-time line that I can jump right into after I graduate from the program."

VIU will be running another HUC program at the Nanaimo campus starting September 26, 2022 and ending December 16, 2022. Intake applications are currently open.

For those interested in the program and exploring a potential career as an HUC, a free program information session is being held on Thursday, April 7, at 6:30 pm, via Zoom.

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