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Many factors are shaping the job responsibilities of patient education managers. Diminishing resources within the health care industry create pressure for more efficiency and patient education managers must do more with less. Yet dwindling funds are never an excuse for mediocrity.
Quality improvement is a major emphasis of patient education as well as compliance with the standards set by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations based in Oakbrook Terrace, IL. Although most patient education managers still are trying to implement the pain standards established by the Joint Commis-sion, it’s new emphasis is on patient safety, says Annette Mercurio, MPH, CHES, director of patient, family and community education at City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, CA.
Due to lack of reimbursement for services, most health care organizations are under budget constraints; therefore, job descriptions usually encompass a variety of responsibilities. When there are multiple tasks to be done, prioritization is of utmost importance, says Dorothy Ruzicki, PhD, RN, director of the department of educational services at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, WA.
With too much to do in too little time, it’s not surprising that a number of readers indicated they worked more 40 hours a week and often as much as 50 hours. The number of hours worked would probably depend on the size of the facility and range of responsibilities, says Ruzicki. If a patient education manager is responsible for a multihospital system’s patient education across the continuum of care and oversees patient education at a big facility, that could add up to a lot of overtime, she says.
There were readers who indicated that they worked less than 40 hours a week; however; there could be several reasons for this, says Mary Szczepanik, MS, BSN, RN, manager of cancer education, support, and outreach at Grant/Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, OH. The health care facility might only have a part-time position for patient education coordinator or it is possible that the person holds more than one title, splitting his or her time between two jobs. A third scenario is that a job-sharing arrangement is in place and two people split the duties and hours of the position of patient education manager. "If a peron is in a managerial position, there is no such thing as a 40-hour work week," says Szczepanik.
Although a majority of our readers who answered the salary survey indicated that their job title was patient education coordinator rather than manager or director, many had a master’s degree. At Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, an advanced degree is desirable when applying for a higher-level position, whether a manager or not, says Magdalyn Patyk, MS, RN, patient education consultant. Whether an advanced degree is rewarded with a higher salary is difficult to say. It depends on the organization, she says. More and more entry-level positions for manager require a master’s degree, says Mercurio. "More than shaping salary, it shapes whether or not a person will be qualified to apply for the job."
Title is not always a good indicator of salary either. It depends on the organization, but titles are usually tied to a certain pay scale, says Patyk. "I think it is the organizational structure that actually determines the title in addition to the responsibilities given," she explains.
Title probably doesn’t impact salary all that much, however the requirements of the job would, agrees Szczepanik. "Many organizations look at what the market is paying for a position when they calculate salaries," she says. Therefore, there would be regional differences in salary to compensate for cost-of-living differences.
However, working at a small hospital in a rural location might not have a negative influence on salary as one might expect. Many rural hospitals have merged with hospital systems in larger cities, thus pay scales for positions within the same system would be comparable, says Szczepanik.
The size of the hospital would not necessarily dictate title or even whether or not there is a patient education manager. It depends on the model of service delivery, says Ruzicki. For example, at Sacred Heart Medical Center with over 600 beds, patient education coordination is handled within each service line such as surgical, cardiac, pediatrics, or women’s services. The department of educational services oversees staff development and is responsible for developing supportive materials for patient education.
Salary may not be impacted by the size of an institution either, says Patyk. It depends on how much an institution values it, she says. Yet many factors have brought patient education to the forefront and increased its importance. This includes its role in patient satisfaction, the importance the Joint Commission has placed upon patient education, and health care consumerism, says Patyk.