With the recent launch of our new Patient Care Technician (PCT) program, we wanted to run down exactly what the PCT position entails. While this career path has some overlap with Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs), there are key differences. In fact, the role is the perfect stepping stone if you’re interested in becoming a Registered Nurse (RN). So keep reading to have your PCT questions answered, which includes what the job requires on a regular basis, what the position makes annually, and how to become a PCT.
So What Exactly Is a Patient Care Technician?
PCTs play a vital role in patient care, whether you’re working in a hospital, doctor’s office, nursing home, or long-term care (LTC) facility. You’ll be working directly with patients, and hand-in-hand with nurses. The type of care you provide patients includes (but is not limited to):
Assisting with restroom needs
Measuring and monitoring vital signs
Managing food and liquid intake
Handling safety checks
Offering emotional support to patients and families
You’ll need to have critical skills that will go a long way towards enhancing the overall patient experience. Since hospitals, nursing homes, and LTC facilities operate 24/7, you’ll probably work nights and/or weekends as a PCT. However, working in those kinds of facilities also gives you the chance to develop strong and lasting relationships with your patients.
How Much Does a Patient Care Technician Make?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 the average pay for a PCT is $28,530 a year (or $13.72 an hour). There is also an encouraging growth rate for this position: it’s expected to grow by 11%, which is faster than average. This is due to an aging population whose healthcare needs will only increase as they grow older.
How Do You Become a Patient Care Technician?
Like many other healthcare-related jobs, becoming a PCT requires a high school diploma and the completion of a state-approved training program, which can last from 20–27 weeks. Once the training is completed, CPCT/A certification is acquired by passing an exam. Once employed, there will be on-the-job training that must be completed. Some states also require continuing education and/or background checks before placing you on the state registry to find work.
Through these programs, you’ll learn how to assist physicians and nurses by providing basic and advanced clinical duties (sometimes in a virtual medical environment). The program covers topics such as anatomy and physiology, medical law and ethics, medical communications, medical records, patient preparation, medical terminology, safety and compliance, and basic laboratory procedures and tests. Throughout the program you’ll learn a wide variety of important clinical tasks designed to set you apart in the competitive job market.
Communication Skills: This is needed to address patients’ or residents’ specific needs and to communicate clearly with fellow healthcare workers.
Compassion: Since you’re caring for the sick, injured, and elderly, a compassionate outlook goes a long way in the profession.
Patience: Caring for patients can be stressful. PCTs are often cleaning, feeding, and/or bathing patients or residents, which calls for you to stay calm.
Physical Stamina: Like many professions in the medical field, you’ll be on your feet. You should be comfortable performing physical jobs (like moving patients).
What’s the Difference Between a PCT and a CNA?
There is some crossover between the PCT and Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) roles. They can both handle tasks like bathing, moving, and feeding patients, as well as monitoring a patient’s vital signs. However, while a CNA is limited to only providing basic care under the supervision of a registered nurse or medical doctor (like answering call signals and recording liquid and food intake), a PCT has the ability to provide that care and basic treatments. For example, a PCT can handle EKG readings and phlebotomy duties (drawing blood), while a CNA cannot. Keep in mind the laws of individual states dictate the level of responsibility for each role.
Do PCTs Become Registered Nurses?
As a PCT hoping to take the next step in your career, you can certainly go back to school to become a Registered Nurse (RN). And thanks to your certifications and your experience gained as a PCT, you’ll be ahead of other aspiring RNs. There are a variety of advantages to becoming an RN. Healthcare needs are growing in the U.S., so the greater medical responsibilities that come with being an RN also lead to a higher salary.
Is the PCT Career Path for You?
If you’re interested in helping doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals with the crucial day-to-day care many patients require, then a career as a PCT is probably perfect for you. It’s an important role in healthcare facilities, one where you’ll help prevent disease, restore optimal wellness through rehabilitation, care for the chronically ill, educate patients and their families, and much more. It’s a hands-on job, one that can be very rewarding for those hoping to make a difference in the lives of patients.
Interested in our Patient Care Technician Certification Training program? Request more info on our official PCT page.