Advocating for the residency coordinator position

Residency Program Insider, August 4, 2009

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Whether you’re a residency program coordinator new to the position or a veteran, you probably realize that coordinators are a largely misunderstood bunch by many in the hospital setting. But coordinators should not let such misconceptions keep them from advancing. Although taking matters into your own hands sounds like a daunting challenge, you can take the following are three simple steps that will help launch you to the top:

  1. Track your responsibilities. Hospital administrators, HR, office managers, and, sometimes, your GME colleagues do not realize how many responsibilities coordinators have and how they affect accreditation decisions and residency training. Writing out all your duties makes it easy for others to see everything you do. Although a simple list may suffice, consider creating a progress report every week and present it to your program director. Divide it into three sections: short- term projects, long-term projects, and headlines. The project sections should indicate where you are in completing your projects, and the headlines section should include any other information you would like to highlight, such as additional training you finished.
    Keep your progress reports and use them during your annual evaluation. That way, if the performance reviewer is not familiar with the coordinator role, you have documentation to show him or her everything that you do.
  2. Give your job description a face-lift. During the past 10 years, the coordinator position has shifted from a clerical role to a function of the program’s education team. With that shift, coordinators in many programs now have more administrator-level responsibilities. However, many organizations still classify the coordinator position as clerical, and the pay reflects that.  
    Make sure your job description reflects the supervisory functions you perform. If it doesn’t, revamp the entire document. Write it in the language of management and avoid clerical terminology. For example avoid words such as “file” and “type.” Instead, use words such as “collaborate,” “create,” “advise,” and “supervise.”
  3. Get the tools you need to succeed. Training is essential to a coordinator’s success. Workshops, reference books, certification, and Webcasts are just a few of the great ways to keep coordinators up to date on accreditation standards and best practices. Unfortunately, coordinators do not always have access to these tools and are often overlooked when it comes to training. Those who control the purse strings may think that the additional training will not benefit the entire program and are not worth spending the money on.

    You can overcome these hurdles. First, plan ahead. Most organizations list its conference dates one year ahead of time. Approach your manager as early as possible and ask that he or she put the money needed in the budget for next year. Next, make your case. Do not simply forward your program director, department administrator, or chair an e-mail promotion describing the conference or resource and expect to get the green light. Instead, before you ask your manager for permission, copy the goals and learning objectives for the conference and write a proposal describing how the training or resource will benefit the program, including what you will be able to implement in the program. Present the promotional materials and your proposal to the person who approves travel.

    This week’s column is from our newsletter, Residency Program Alert.

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