2004 Salary Survey Results

Patient education manager position found strong across the country

Role dominated by nursing, most likely found in a hospital system

There seems to be no area of the country lacking in attention paid to patient education. In the annual salary survey conducted by Patient Education Management, readers responded in 2004 that they worked in urban, suburban, and rural areas; however, response from those working in a facility located in urban areas was slightly higher. (To see charts illustrating the salary survey results, click here.)

Consumer activism could be prompting more medical facilities throughout the United States to hire patient education coordinators, says Louise Villejo, MPH, CHES, executive director of the Patient Education Office at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. "Consumers are demanding more information," she explains. To meet this demand many health care facilities now have resource centers where patients can find more information about their disease and its treatment.

Villejo says that, in addition to consumer demand, patients and family members have to learn how to do more self-care as patient care becomes more outpatient-focused.

Another catalyst for providing oversight of patient education might be standards related to patient education set in place by the Oakbrook Terrace, IL-based Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, as well as national patient safety goals, says Magdalyn Patyk, MS, RN, BC, patient education program manager at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

Many patient education managers feared that patient education would lose visibility when the Joint Commission did away with its chapter on patient education in January 2004 and put the majority of patient education standards in a new chapter titled "Provision of Care" along with the assessment, care, and continuum of care standards. However, patient teaching has not seemed to drop in status.

According to a spokesperson for the Joint Commission, the changes made were in no way an effort to diminish the importance of patient education, because one of the hallmarks of quality care is educating and empowering the patient.

Although patient education is no longer a stand-alone chapter, the requirements have not really changed — just the way they have been formatted and are presented, according to the Joint Commission. The standards were reworded and condensed, but no requirement for patient education was removed. Overall, only a few standards that were outdated or obscure were eliminated.

Education also boosts patient satisfaction. Health care institutions have recognized a direct link between patient satisfaction and patient education. Surveys show that involvement in care decisions as well as understanding of tests and treatments improve satisfaction and relate to patient education, says Annette Mercurio, MPH, CHES, manager of Patient, Family and Community Education at City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, CA.

The need for someone in the role of patient education coordinator could also be a response to the fact that staff at the bedside are often so overburdened with basic care that someone has to coordinate educational resources and activities, says Kathy Ordelt, RN-CPN, CRRN, patient and family education coordinator at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The nursing shortage has been headline news for a long time.

The requirements for the position of patient education manager may be high at many institutions. The majority of readers answering the survey had a master’s degree.

"Patient education management is a specialist role that requires a wide range of knowledge and skills. Those range from program planning to materials development to training to budget management. Few bachelor’s programs would provide the necessary preparation. Recognizing the level of expertise required, many organizations require master’s preparation for the patient education position," says Mercurio.

"Like any management position, certainly having a master’s-prepared person would be most desirable," adds Patyk.

Continuing education has been a big focus in health care for the past couple of decades, says Ordelt. After staff have gained experience with direct patient care, they frequently look for other avenues to explore. Some enter the field of health care education and, by then, have furthered their basic education to meet job qualifications.

RNs dominate patient education

Many readers answering the survey also said they are registered nurses. This is likely because nurses have a very good grasp of the "whole patient" and deal with many facets of patient care, including education, says Ordelt. "Nurses are strong advocates for patients and strive to empower them. There are very few things as empowering as knowledge, so patient education has always been important," she adds.

Twenty years ago, when Villejo entered the field of patient education, she attended a conference and found that almost every person in the role of patient education coordinator was an RN. "I think it is because this area usually was in nursing and because they looked to nursing as the content experts instead of looking at it as health education expertise," she says.

The number of RNs in the field of patient education could be a reason why the survey revealed that many people overseeing the coordination of patient education had worked in health care for a long time. "The majority of nurses are middle-aged," says Villejo.

Also, it is more typical for people to start off in a clinical role, particularly RN, and eventually be promoted into the specialist role of patient education manager, says Mercurio.

When RNs have been in the clinical setting for a while they are frequently ready for a change. Sometimes "burnout" has occurred and change is not only welcomed, it’s needed, says Ordelt.

When a person must be an RN to fill a position, his or her salary tends to be higher, says Mercurio. Other factors driving salary could be whether the hospital is private or public and the region of the country in which it is located. The West Coast tends to have higher salaries than other parts of the country, she says.

In a nonprofit hospital, salary is most likely influenced by insurance reimbursement, malpractice insurance, and an organization’s financial viability, says Patyk.

About an equal number of readers said that their annual gross income was $40,000 to $49,999; $50,000 to $59,999; and $60,000 to $69,999.

Salaries increased on average 1%-3% (56.52% of respondents) to 4%-5% (26.09% of respondents), according to survey responses. Often salary increases are determined by market surveys completed by staff in the human resources department. They are done to help the health care facility stay competitive with other institutions in the area, says Ordelt.

Often patient education management positions are grouped with other "exempt" positions, and the organization sets an annual range for merit increases for the entire group. The percentage increase that an individual receives within that set range is determined by whether they meet, exceed, or don’t meet expectations, says Mercurio.

"During the 11 years that I’ve been at City of Hope, for example, there have been years when no increases were given, and other years when I received a 5% or 6% increase," she says.

It is not surprising that 91.3% of readers answering the survey are hospital-based, with the remaining 8.7% academic-based.

Patient education managers generally plan and coordinate services across an organization. Other settings, such as a physician’s office, require direct patient education skills but are not complex systems requiring management of patient education services, says Mercurio.


For more information about analyzing the results of the 2004 Patient Education Management Salary Survey, contact:

Annette Mercurio, MPH, CHES, Manager, Patient, Family and Community Education, City of Hope National Medical Center, 1500 East Duarte Road, Duarte, CA 91010-0269. Telephone: (626) 301-8926. E-mail: amercurio@coh.org

Kathy Ordelt, RN-CPN, CRRN, Patient and Family Education Coordinator, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, 1600 Tullie Circle, Atlanta, GA 30329. Telephone: (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. Telephone: (312) 926-2173. E-mail: mpatyk@nmh.org

Louise Villejo, MPH, CHES, Executive Director, Patient Education Office, UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe - 21, Houston, TX 77030. Telephone: (713) 792-7128. E-mail: lvillejo@mdanderson.org