Patient care technicians aid doctors, nurses and other medical professionals by tending to patients and taking notes on patient care. Patient care technicians need training in order to be successful. They are often trained on the job, or they can complete a certificate program in nursing assisting.
Should I Become a Patient Care Technician?
Individuals interested in helping promote good health without spending years in college may enjoy jobs as patient care technicians. Although specific requirements vary by state, training typically spans just a few months. Students who complete a certificate program in nursing assisting may have more job opportunities than those with no formal education. State laws vary, but completion of a competency exam is common in many areas.
|Required Education||Certificate in nursing assisting|
|Other Requirements||On-the-job training will be provided with employment|
|Licensing, Registration and Certification||Varies by state, but some credentialing is mandatory in many; certification is available through the National Center for Competency Testing|
|Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)||8% for nursing assistants*|
|Median Salary (2019)||$29,640 for nursing assistants*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Patient Care Technician Job Description
What is a patient care technician, and what does a patient care technician do? The PCT job description involves tending to ill and injured individuals under the supervision of doctors, nurses and medical professionals. Patient care technician duties include taking vital signs, collecting specimens, performing catheterization and assisting patients with eating, personal hygiene and grooming. They also take notes and make assessments on their care. Patient care technicians often work in hospitals, clinics or rehabilitation facilities. They may use their training and experience to pursue more advanced health care careers.
Patient Care Technician Requirements
In order to perform the job duties of a PCT in a hospital, you'll need appropriate education and certification credentials. Generally, this means that you need to complete a patient care technician training course and then pass a certification exam. The training course may be offered through on-the-job training by your employer. Once you're certified, you will be ready to take patient care technician job responsibilities.
Training for aspiring patient care technicians is available at community and technical colleges. Students can typically complete certificate programs in less than a year. Interested candidates need a high school diploma or its equivalent.
The curriculum includes classroom, laboratory exercises and supervised clinical hours, which may come in the form of internships or externships. To successfully complete these programs, students must complete the following learning modules: certified nursing assistant (CNA), electrocardiogram (EKG), phlebotomy, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and advanced nursing skills.
Once students complete the requirements of the patient care technician program, they're eligible to take the National Certified Patient Care Technician (NCPCT) exam through the National Center for Competency Testing. They can take it while completing their clinical education. To remain certified, individuals must complete 14 hours of continuing education each year.
Patient care technicians are often members of medical teams that spend the most time with patients; it is important that they be empathetic, attentive to a patient's needs and responsive. Having strong interpersonal and communication skills and good attention to detail is also vital for your ability to fulfill the patient care tech responsibilities. Here is a list of skills that you need in order to successfully perform the patient care technician responsibilities:
- Attention to Detail
- Medical Knowledge
- Active Listening
Difference Between PCT, CNA, and Medical Assistant
Patient care technicians (PCTs), certified nursing assistants (CNAs), and medical assistants (MAs) are all medical professionals who assist doctors and nurses in a healthcare setting. However, the job duties of each of these positions are different. The patient care technician description focuses on general skills that assist doctors and nurses, like collecting specimens and gathering vital signs. CNAs work under the supervision of nurses specifically, helping provide patient care by giving medicine and otherwise addressing a patient's needs. MAs work primarily in a clinical setting, gathering vital signs and prior medical history information from patients.
PCT Salary and Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job openings for nurse assistants were projected to grow 8% during the 2019-2029 decade, which is faster than the national average. These professionals earned median hourly wages of $14.25 or annual salaries of $29,640 as of May 2019, per the BLS.
The salary for patient care technicians also varies geographically across cities and states. This is because the cost of living is different in different locations, so patient care technicians are compensated differently based on the amount of money they'll need to afford housing, food, and other essentials. The table below summarizes the average salary for patient care technicians (nursing assistants) in the five states where they are paid the most:
|State||Average Annual Salary|
|District of Columbia||$35,320|
While no formal education is required to become a patient care technician, many candidates will be required to complete a certification program at a community or technical school. They should also take the NCPCT exam in order to become certified and must meet any other state or local requirements in order to work.