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Career Ladders Strengthen Coordinators' Professional Development

Julie McCoy for HealthLeaders Media, October 12, 2010

Career ladders provide a path for professional development

When someone asks you what you do for a living, chances are you answer with a one-liner: “I manage the day-to-day activities of a residency/fellowship program.” 

If you give a more specific answer, you probably get confused looks and nods of understanding, even though you know the person has no clue what you’re talking about. 

Unfortunately, coordinators are often met with those same confused looks when trying to explain what they do to HR, department administrators, and even some program directors. 

To add to the confusion, there is no standardized job description for coordinators. The responsibilities assigned to the job vary among institutions—sometimes even within an institution. 

With so much variety, it’s not surprising that coordinators often get lumped into the “secretarial” category even though their jobs require administrative and managerial skills. This misperception causes endless frustration for coordinators. 

In fact, many respondents from RPA’s 2009 Coordinator Salary Survey sounded off on this issue. When asked what their biggest challenges are, coordinators commented: 

  • “Educating supervisors and HR on the impact of our jobs, what it entails to remain accredited, and have excellent education for our learners.”
  • “Getting administrators to understand that the residency coordinator position should be full-time ... aside from my program director, no one knows what I do ... I can’t get appropriate support or pay.”
  • “Coordinators manage the residency program but they are always put in the category of clerical/
    secretarial staff, which decreases their pay range considerably. Coordinators need to be placed in a higher job classification.”
  • “Finding professional development opportunities.”

Although coordinators are still largely misunderstood, some institutions do realize the high level of skill it takes to perform the job successfully. To recognize coordinators, some institutions are creating coordinator career ladders that provide a path for professional development. 

The case for career ladders

Career ladders link skill level or experience with salary. As coordinators achieve a specific level of experience, acquire new skills through education or training, and become involved in professional organizations, they move up the ladder and advance to the next job level, typically also getting a bump in pay. (See the sidebar on p. 9 for a sample career ladder.)

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