2006 Salary Survey Results

Role of patient education manager continues to expand

Salaries can grow along with the importance of the position

The demands of the job for a patient education manager or coordinator seem to be increasing.

The skills of the patient education manager are being drawn on more by others across a health care organization, says Annette Mercurio, MPH, CHES, manager of patient, family, and community education at City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, CA.

"We are being asked to lead multiple organization-wide initiatives, as well as address patient education responsibilities," she explains.

Diane C. Moyer, MS, RN, program manager for consumer health education at The Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus, agrees. She juggles multiple projects with various departments, in addition to the routine tasks she is responsible for, such as updating materials in the patient education inventory.

New challenges occur when an organization grows, as many health care institutions are doing today, says Kathy Ordelt, RN-CPN, CRRN, patient and family education coordinator at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. More staff members means more people to train in the nuances of patient education and more resources are needed.

The ongoing changes in technology require diligence to stay abreast. This is important because technology is becoming more and more linked to resources, says Ordelt. For example, most institutions keep their inventory of teaching sheets on their Intranet. In addition, the web, video on demand, and computer-based education programs are becoming more common resources for educating patients.

With advances in medicine, more lives are being saved, but this can increase the demands for educational resources and strategies for teaching as more and more patients have chronic complex conditions, says Ordelt. As a result, there is more education to complete in the short time frame of a hospital stay and outpatient rehab visits covered by insurance.

Are the increasing demands of the job driving salary ranges higher? According to the 2006 salary survey conducted by Patient Education Management, there is no "average" annual gross income for people in the position, although many were in a salary range of $50,000 to $80,000.

"Salary seems most tied to the definition of the role. The job description defines the level of sophistication needed. Some patient educators are direct caregivers, others are managers and administrators. This also defines the education required for the position and contributes to the salary range the role fits into," says Fran London, MS, RN, health education specialist at The Emily Center, Phoenix (AZ) Children's Hospital.

The amount of managerial responsibilities impact salary, says Magdalyn Patyk, MS, RN, BC, patient education program manager at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. This does not necessarily mean the oversight of staff but the amount of work required in the position, she adds.

Yet, it is not job duties alone that drive salary. Geographic location has an impact as well. Salaries on the West Coast usually are higher than those in the Mid-Atlantic, but the cost of living is higher as well in the west, says Mercurio. The type of institution at which a person is employed would influence salary, with employees in a private hospital receiving higher pay than those in a state system, she adds.

The majority of readers answering the salary survey worked at nonprofit hospitals vs. federal, state-, county-, or city-run facilities and for-profit hospitals.

As the importance of patient education grows, so will the amount earned by those who work in the field, says Ordelt. The need for good resources and competent teaching becomes more apparent as health care professionals try to meet the needs of patients with complex chronic illnesses, she explains.

In addition, there is a growing need for foreign language resources as immigrant populations increase and for resources that are at a lower reading level to address health literacy issues, says Moyer.

Meeting the needs of a diverse patient population is key to achieving organizational goals, such as patient safety, better care outcomes, and increased patient satisfaction. In recent years more administrators are recognizing that patient education plays an important part, says Mercurio.

"I have an automatic Google search done weekly of patient education, and there seems to be more recognition of the connection between patient ed and health outcomes. Health literacy and medication compliance are coming up more often in these searches. Several research studies have come out recently showing individualized teaching improves health outcomes," says London.

Do increases in salary meet the increase of demands of the job and increased importance of patient education? According to the salary survey most who responded received a 1% to 3% increase in pay.

"The specific annual increase depends on a number of factors," says Mercurio. Generally, leadership establishes an average annual percent increase based on the organization's financial health. Ranges are established for increases according to whether or not an individual employee "meets expectations" or "exceeds expectations" and he or she is evaluated to determine which category is a good fit.

"For example, the organization may determine it can fund average increases of 3%. The range for 'meets expectations' may be set at 1%-3% increase and the range for 'exceeds expectations' at 2%-4%," explains Mercurio.

While salary is important and all want to be compensated well for the work they do, there are many factors that draw people to the field of patient education.

"The job has more rewards than stresses, and that is a big plus," says Moyer. Working with a wide range of clinicians in the health system and constantly learning about such things as new surgeries or treatments are plusses, as well as the opportunity to interact and network with a number of patient educators across the country.

For Ordelt, it is the marriage of nursing and teaching. As a child she had trouble deciding which field to choose, and her current job has allowed her to work both in teaching and education.

"When patient education is done well, we can positively impact patient outcomes, and there is nothing more rewarding than to do that," says Patyk.

London agrees.

"After saving lives, patient education has the greatest potential for long-term impact on health outcomes. It is appealing to me because my work matters; it changes lives for the better. I can make a difference," she says.


For more information on trends in patient education and their impact on salary range, contact:

  • Fran London, MS, RN, health education specialist, The Emily Center, Phoenix Children's Hospital, 1919 East Thomas Road, Phoenix, AZ 85016-7710. Phone: (602) 546-1408. E-mail: flondon@phoenixchildrens.com.
  • Annette Mercurio, MPH, CHES, manager, patient, family, and community education, City of Hope National Medical Center, 1500 East Duarte Rd, Duarte, CA 91010-0269. Phone: (626) 301-8926. E-mail: amercurio@coh.org.
  • Diane C. Moyer, MS, RN, program manager, consumer health education, The Ohio State University Medical Center, 1375 Perry St., Room 524, Columbus, OH 43201. Phone: (614) 293-3191. E-mail: moyer-1@medctr.osu.edu.
  • Kathy Ordelt, RN-CPN, CRRN, patient and family education coordinator, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, 1600 Tullie Circle, Atlanta, GA 30329. Phone: (404) 785-7839. Fax: (404) 785-7017. E-mail: Kathy.ordelt@choa.org.
  • Magdalyn Patyk, MS, RN, BC, patient education program manager, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, 251 East Huron, Galter 3-304A, Chicago, IL 60611-2908. Phone: (312) 926-2173. E-mail: mpatyk@nmh.org.