What Is a Patient Registrar? Shining a Light on This Administrative Role

photo of a patient registrar working at a desk with a headset on

You may not know it, but when you walk into a healthcare clinic, doctor’s office, urgent care or emergency room, chances are you’ll interact with a patient registrar pretty quickly. In many cases, they’re the staff member who takes your information, has you fill out forms regarding your identification, insurance and financial information at the start at of your visit, and may help you schedule a follow-up appointment afterward.

Of course, there’s more to this role than just what you see when interacting with registrars as a patient. Keep reading to learn more about the job duties, requirements and other key information related to this solid healthcare career starting point. 

What does a patient registrar do?

Patient registrar duties can vary depending on the setting—clinic or hospital and the unit in which they work. At the front desk, patient registrars greet patients and visitors, answer general questions, and ensure that all the sign-in information is collected from the patients.

After gathering this information, patient registrars are responsible for entering this information into the facilities’ health information record-keeping systems. This info is used to create (or add to) the patient’s medical charts and print identifications stickers for the patient’s physical documents and ID bracelet if needed. In larger healthcare facilities, they may assist patients with directions for where to go next during their visit. In some settings, particularly in smaller clinics, they may also be asked to take and record the basic patient information, like height and weight.

Later in a patient’s visit or stay, the registrar will review physician notes, schedules follow-up procedures and release medical records as needed.

Patient registrars generally have more direct interaction with patients than many health information professionals, so having a high level of emotional intelligence is a must. Going to the doctor can be a stressful experience, and with that can come challenging or even rude behavior from patients. This means customer service skills, patience, and the ability to calmly and clearly communicate can go a long way toward success in this role.

It’s also important to keep in mind that patient registrars may interact with people who are very sick and may be in need of emergency attention. They’ll need to know the signs for when a situation calls for escalation so patients receive immediate medical attention as well as how to react calmly in these potentially stressful situations.

How to become a patient registrar 

Becoming a patient registrar is great for someone interested in working in a healthcare setting with a knack for organization and administrative skills, but what do you need to do in order to become one? Let’s take a closer look at the skills and education needed.

Patient registrar education and training

So what does it take to become a patient registrar? One way to find out is to take a look at job postings from across the Internet. We used real-time job analyst software to examine over 143,000 patient registrar job postings from the past year. We found 89 percent of job postings were seeking candidates with a high school diploma or vocational training at a minimum.1 As you can see, this makes the role of a patient registrar fairly attainable—but there are some caveats. When we take a look at the preferred education qualifications instead of just the minimum listed in these job postings, we find that 17.3 percent were seeking candidates with an Associate’s degree.1 While the exact preferences will vary depending on employers and setting, it’s safe to say some form of specialized training or education can help prospective patient registrars get their foot in the door.

Programs like the Rasmussen University Medical Billing and Coding Certificate may be an appealing way to meet those preferences as this fully online offering can be completed in as few as nine months.2 This program will develop core competencies needed to work in a medical office and can set the foundation for pursuing more advanced health information related roles later on in your career.

What does skills and traits do the best patient registrars have?

While the barrier to entry to this role may not be as high as some healthcare careers, it still requires a solid mix of organizational, administrative and people skills to be effective. As we mentioned before, this is a patient-facing role that requires you to be able to handle interactions with people at their best, their worst and anywhere in between.

That said, candidates who are friendly, organized and detail oriented already have some of the most important traits to build upon. To help identify some of the specific skills you’ll need for this role, we again analyzed patient registrar job postings to identify what employers are most commonly seeking.

Commonly sought-after skills for patient registrars:1

  • Scheduling/appointment setting
  • Customer service
  • Billing
  • Medical coding
  • Administrative support
  • HIPAA compliance
  • Electronic medical records
  • Medical terminology
  • Co-pay collection

It’s helpful for candidates to have a basic knowledge of medical terminology as well as knowledge of common medical billing practices and terms. Additionally, comfort with basic computer skills and office productivity software will help as registrars learn to navigate specialized software systems.

Patient registrar career information

While your skills and personality may be well suited for a patient registrar position, there are still important considerations, like pay and potential growth opportunities, to weigh. Let’s dive in.

How much do patient registrars make?

Like with any job, you’ll want to know about your earning potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) can provide some insight, but it should be noted that this role might not fit neatly into their occupational groupings for salary data. That said, we can take a look at two of the closest matches: medical secretaries and administrative assistants and medical records and health information specialists. The 2020 median annual wage for medical secretaries and administrative assistants was $37,350 while the median annual wage for medical records and health information specialists was $44,090.3

Patient registrar growth opportunities

Becoming a patient registrar is a solid way to launch a healthcare career. While many are content to stay in this role, it can also provide a good starting point for more advanced health information and administration careers.

Patient registrars may be interested in advancing within health information as well and increasing their employment opportunities. For example, patient registrars may choose to specialize and become a release of information (ROI) specialist or advance to become a health information technician—and that’s just a couple of potential options.

Interested in becoming a patient registrar?

Now that you’ve heard all about the patient registrar job description and salary, you might be even more confident that this is the healthcare career you’ve been hoping for. Becoming a patient registrar will allow you to put your caring personality to work for patients and help the medical team’s care run smoothly.

If you’re interested in getting a leg up in your patient registrar job search, it be worth earning a Medical Billing and Coding Certificate to get a head start in learning medical terminology and the ins and out of medical billing.

If you’re interested in learning more about the places a health information career can take you, check out our article “Health Information Career Paths: Exploring Your Potential Options.”

1Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 143,690 patient registrar job postings, July 01, 2020 – Jun. 30, 2021.)
2Completion time is dependent on the number of transfer credits accepted and the number of courses completed each term.
3Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [information accessed July, 2021] www.bls.gov/ooh/. Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries, and employment conditions in your area may vary.

Kirsten Slyter

Kirsten is a Content Writer at Collegis Education where she enjoys researching and writing on behalf of Rasmussen University. She understands the difference that education can make and hopes to inspire readers at every stage of their education journey.

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