2005 Salary Survey Results

Value of services provided by PEMs growing in health care

Expertise in issues impacting patients could expand role

The job of patient education manager/coordinator has become more valuable in recent years, according to many in the field. There is growing awareness among administrators and staff about health literacy problems and the importance of using documents that are easy to read. Materials written at appropriate reading levels usually fall under the direction of the patient education coordinator.

"They are starting to understand that many readmissions and complications can be avoided through quality patient education," says Fran London, MS, RN, a health education specialist at Phoenix (AZ) Children's Hospital.

Issues currently impacting health care, such as health literacy, place education coordinators in leadership roles because of their expertise.

Annette Mercurio, MPH, CHES, manager of patient, family, and community education at City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, CA, says her role is becoming broader, encompassing management responsibilities beyond patient and community education.

"As more and more institutions seek to advance patient-centered care, patient education managers have the expertise and experience with organization-wide systems to assume leadership roles," she says.

They are assuming key roles in patient-centered initiatives such as patient safety, patient satisfaction, and quality improvement. Also they play an important role in the delivery of culturally competent care for a patient population that is becoming more and more diverse.

While the increased value of the position may provide more job security it does not necessarily impact salary increases.

The results of Patient Education Management's 2005 Salary Survey revealed that the average pay increase for most patient education coordinators was 1% to 3% percent.

"A 1% to 3% salary increase is in line with most increases across health care systems over the past five to seven years. The amount of increase is often based partly on merit, performance, and trends in the community," says Diane Moyer, BSN, MS, RN, program manager of consumer health education at the Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus.

How has your salary changed in the past year?

Many factors impact income

Annual gross income among those answering the survey varied. A good number said they earned between $50,000 and $59,999. Others earned more and a few less with the majority in the $50,000 to $80,000 range.

What is Your Gross Income?

There are many factors that could impact salary, such as the region of the country in which a patient education coordinator lives and works. "The East and West Coast regions often pay all staff more than the South or Midwest," says Sandra Cornett, PhD, RN, director of the OSU/AHEC Health Literacy Program at the Ohio State University in Columbus.

Where is your facility located?

The size of the facility at which readers worked ranged from about 200 to 800 hospital beds. Hospital size might impact salary in a number of ways, as would the ownership of the facility, says Mercurio. Salary should be higher in a mid-to-large private hospital than a small hospital or a large public hospital, she explains.

If you work in a hospital, what is its size?

"Resources in public hospitals are so stretched they'd be lucky to have a patient education manager position. State and federal hospitals have position classification/pay structures that tend to be lower than private hospitals," says Mercurio.

Which best describes the ownership or control of your employer?

Most patient education managers/coordinators are hospital-based. According to those in the field, the need for such a position exists where the teaching of many patients is coordinated. However, hospital-based coordinators often support outpatient and other services outside the hospital that are part of the health system.

What is your work environment?

The job description would impact the salary range with the amount of responsibility of the position bringing a higher salary, says London. Skills needed to perform the requirements of the role vary depending on how the role is defined and also would factor into salary, she adds.

Also, the department to which the patient education manager reports might impact salary increases, says Magdalyn Patyk, MS, RN, BC, patient education program manager at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. "If the manager is a nurse and reports to nursing, that person may be eligible for all the nursing salary increases, which in our case is almost annually," she explains.

Diplomas do matter

Moyer says, "Salary is impacted by whether the role requires a registered nurse or a health educator, since an RN will usually mean a larger salary than a health educator. Often the RN educator will be master's prepared which can also increase salary range in some systems."

Although some readers answering the survey had master's degrees others indicated a bachelor's degree was their highest degree. According to Patyk, job title often determines what degree is required to fill the position. Many organizations will not promote staff to manager level without an advanced degree. However, in some hospitals a coordinator level does not require more than a B.A., she says.

What is your highest degree?

The nursing shortage has prompted some institutions that once required master's degrees to ease the requirement, says Moyer. While not all patient education coordinators are nurses, that frequently is the case, and the majority of readers answering the survey indicated that they were registered nurses.

"RNs in patient education roles often lose opportunities for overtime and credentialing pay compared to those staying in inpatient staffing so it is getting harder to attract qualified individuals into the role," says Moyer.

Yet income is not always the draw of the position of patient education manager or coordinator.

"Patient education coordinators/managers who entered their positions from a hands-on clinician role were most likely attracted to the nature of the position vs. the salary. They were ready for a new challenge at that stage in their careers and may or may not have achieved much of a salary increase," says Mercurio.

How many hours a week do you work?

How long have you worked in health care?

PEMs role changing, challenging

The position of patient education manager/coordinator should remain a challenging job because many factors have an impact on patient education creating changes that must be addressed.

Regulatory and accreditation bodies, such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations based in Oakbrook Terrace, IL, consistently implement new regulations and requirements.

"[Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] regulations have put great restraints on patient education. Family members seem to be cut out of the process because of the rules and regulations, and staff that need the information for continuity of care are impacted by HIPAA also," says Cornett.

The availability of health information on the Internet has had a great impact on patient education in recent years. The questions patients have for health care providers are more sophisticated because they can find the basic information themselves, says London.

"Technology in general has provided more vehicles for patient education such as DVDs, e-mail, web sites and text messaging. We still need more research to determine how to use these new methods most effectively," she adds.

Shorter hospital stays continue to shape patient education with much of the teaching now completed in the pre- and post-hospital phase. These short stays mean patients and caregivers must deal with more complex issues at home and patient education continues to play a role in preparing them for this task, says Moyer.