If you’ve ever had outpatient surgery and were told to show up at the hospital at the crack of dawn, only to end up waiting hours before you are taken into an operating room, you know how critical a hospital surgical scheduler can be. One little complication or misstep and the whole surgery schedule becomes upended. Without a seasoned scheduler who knows how to mitigate the risks and keep procedures moving, non-critical patients would never see the inside of an operating room.
Have you ever thought about applying for a surgical scheduling job? Healthcare jobs are in demand right now, including administrative jobs like this one. If you are interested in the medical field, have lots of organizational skills, and are patient and methodical, this may be an excellent entry-level job.
A remote surgical scheduler is responsible for scheduling surgeries for an assigned group of physicians at different locations or for a specific healthcare facility. The facilities may be hospitals, clinics, or surgery centers. But the job doesn’t just stop at putting a surgery on a schedule. It includes maintaining that schedule and communicating cancellations and changes to medical staff and patients. It can also entail scheduling pre-operative testing and referrals, ensuring the surgeon sees test results, transcribing and sharing surgery orders, and collecting necessary patient documentation for surgeries.
In general, a surgery scheduler oversees all administrative tasks related to surgery. That includes maintaining patient records while following HIPAA guidelines and processing payments and insurance information. An on-site job may also include answering the phone and interacting with patients at a reception desk in an office setting.
The most important skills a remote surgery scheduler should have are organization and adaptability. A typical day for a busy surgery scheduler can be fast-paced and changeable. An effective surgery scheduler should be comfortable shifting gears at a moment’s notice, make quick decisions, and communicate the changes to the relevant people promptly. Communication skills are critical to this position. Schedulers also need computer literacy. Most healthcare systems use digital scheduling software and a digital medical record system. It’s essential to know how to navigate a computer and be able to quickly learn new software.
Extensive medical knowledge is not necessary to be a remote surgical scheduler. In fact, surgery scheduling can be an excellent starting point for a career in the healthcare profession. You will be exposed to a medical work environment and get to know others in various medical roles, including doctors, nurses, specialists like anesthesiologists, lab techs, and office administrators. The experience may help you decide if you want to pursue a healthcare career further.
Education and Experience Needed
Most surgical scheduling positions require a high school diploma or GED. In addition, some employers require experience in a medical administrative position. Working as a receptionist or secretary in a doctor’s office may help you qualify, but only if you have the solid organizational and communication skills required. It’s a bonus to have a basic understanding of the healthcare sector and medical terminology but not required.
There are no licensing requirements for this job, but certification is available through the Association of Administrative Professionals. The certificate is called the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP). You’ll need two to four years of administrative work experience to qualify for this certification. The CAP may help you land a higher-paying surgery scheduler job.
Location and Hours
Until recently, most surgical schedulers worked in hospitals, surgery centers, or private practices. However, remote surgical scheduling positions have become more available. Usually, the employer will require an on-site training period before the scheduler starts working from home. Hybrid schedules may also be available.
Your hours will vary depending on your employer. Primarily, a surgery scheduler works a standard 9 to 5 work week. However, some overtime may be necessary during busy periods or if an employer is understaffed.
Pay and Benefits
According to Indeed, the average base salary for a US-based surgery scheduler is $18.57 per hour, that’s about $43,250 per year. The estimated average pay in Arizona is $18.30 per hour or $42,632 per year. The most common benefits full-time surgery schedulers earn are 401(k), medical insurance, dental insurance, disability insurance, life insurance, and paid time off.
Day in the Life
As a remote surgical scheduler, you may start your day by reviewing the day’s schedule and checking to ensure the appropriate paperwork is up-to-date and filed. You may have to change the schedule to accommodate an overnight emergency. Once you’ve made that change, you’ll have a list of staff and patients to inform of the new schedule.
You may have a list of pre-operative tests and other patient appointments to schedule and communicate the outcomes to the relevant parties. You may have to coordinate the paperwork needed for surgeries scheduled later in the week or month. You will spend time booking new surgeries and communicating those days and times to patients and doctors.
There are insurance forms to process, invoices to be sent or processed, patient records to update, and patient “what to expect” surgery information or forms to send. You may need to interact with patients after surgery to schedule post-operative appointments or coordinate payments. You will probably interact with other hospitals, surgery centers, or offices if your employer is “sharing” medical staff. Of course, you may also have to drop everything to respond to an emergency surgery or situation, which would mean changing the surgery schedule and making sure everyone involved is notified.
It can be stressful dealing with schedules, phone calls, paperwork, and multiple “customers” with different expectations and priorities. The best surgical schedulers thrive on the ability to streamline processes and make things run smoothly. They also feel a sense of satisfaction when the surgeries for the day are successful and everyone is happy.
At the beginning of this blog, we mentioned that surgical scheduling is an excellent entry-level job if you are interested in a healthcare career. You’ll receive outstanding training in medical terminology, records systems, patient care, and administrative tasks. Surgery schedulers play an essential role in many healthcare settings, and you can feel a sense of pride in your hard work.