If you’re a compassionate person who wants to build a career as a care provider, this section is for you.
Patient Care Technicians are responsible for providing daily basic medical care for patients.
They can work in hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and a variety of other healthcare settings.
What Does a Patient Care Technician Do?
Although job descriptions vary depending on the employer and the healthcare environment in which they work, Patient Care Technicians are usually responsible for:
- Providing care and assistance to patients with routine tasks
- Providing emotional support when needed
- Obtaining specimens for tests
- Monitoring patients’ condition by checking their blood pressure, heartbeat, and pulse
- Providing updates to the rest of the care team regarding patients’ progress
- Monitoring what the patients eat and drink
- Escorting patients when X-rays and other diagnostic processes are required
- Keeping records of the care activities performed
- Sanitizing the patients’ rooms
- Assisting nursing staff in administering treatment
- Identifying patients’ concerns and reporting them to other medical staff
Usually, Patient Care Technicians work under the supervision of a Registered Nurse or Professional Nurse.
Patient Care Technician duties are similar- up to a point to the ones assigned to Certified Nursing Assistants.
However, because PCTs usually have more training, they may be allowed to administer medication-related care, perform ECGs and take blood samples.
The tasks they are allowed to perform vary depending on the state regulations, and the type of certifications PCTs have.
What Prospects Do Patient Care Technicians Have?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for workers in healthcare occupations, in general, is projected to grow 16 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations.
This growth will result in 2.6 million new jobs in total across the nation.
As with any field, job prospects vary depending on the specialty, region, education, and a variety of other factors.
The demand for nursing assistants and orderlies, for example, is projected to grow 8 percent over the decade, with 194,500 new jobs expected to appear in the United States.
As the baby-boom generation ages, there will be an increasing demand for healthcare professionals who care for people with chronic conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes.
The demand for Patient Care Technicians may be limited due to the fact that some nursing homes and clinics rely on government funding.
Cuts in programs such as Medicare and Medicaid may affect patients’ ability to pay, especially for elderly patients.
However, job openings also vary depending on the state and the level of government funding.
How Much Does a Patient Care Technician Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage reported by healthcare professionals as of May 2021 was $75,040.
The median wage shows us that half of all healthcare workers in this field made less than this amount while half earned more.
Salaries vary depending on the place of employment, occupation, job description, and many other factors.
The median annual wage for healthcare support occupations was $29,880- lower than the median annual wage across all occupations- calculated at $45,760.
Nursing assistants, who have a job description similar to Patient Care Technicians, reported a median annual wage of $30,310 as of May 2021.
Wages range from less than $24,000 and more than $44,000, depending on experience level, location, and many other factors.
The top-paying state for workers in this profession was Alaska, where nursing assistants made $43,080 on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Nursing assistants in Louisiana and Mississippi, on the other hand, made $25,840 and $25,690 respectively per year, on average.
Salaries also vary depending on the industry of employment.
The highest paying field for nursing assistants in 2021 was junior colleges, where the median annual wage was $61,310.
However, there are very few jobs available for nursing assistants at junior colleges- in 2021 less than 100 nursing assistants worked in this field nationwide.
Nursing assistants who worked for nursing care facilities made $32,090 per year, while those who worked for general medical and surgical hospitals made $35,190 per year on average.
Patient Care Technicians may find employment in nursing care facilities, hospitals, retirement communities, assisted living facilities, and other healthcare settings.
Their work may be strenuous as they may have to spend a lot of time on their feet caring for patients.
Because these facilities provide care at all times, Patient Care Technicians may have to work evening, night, and weekend shifts.
Education Requirements for Patient Care Technicians
One way to start your journey toward a Patient Care Technician career is by becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant and completing additional training afterward.
In order to earn a CNA license, you have to complete an accredited post-secondary training program and then pass your state’s competency exam.
Some CNA training programs are available for high school students, but training is also available at community colleges, and trade and vocational schools.
Although there are training programs that allow students to prepare for a career as a Patient Care Technician or Nursing Assistant during high school, a graduation diploma or equivalent may be required for licensure.
Training costs range from less than $1,000 and more than $1,500, depending on the type of program and the duration.
Some more-expensive programs also include the cost of the state certification exam, uniforms, and classroom supplies.
Patient Care Technician programs are also available at some post-secondary institutions, and costs are usually in the $2,000 range.
These programs sometimes combine Phlebotomy Training with Certified Nurse Assistant and EKG training.
The curriculum covers classes in medical terminology, anatomy, pharmacology, and physiology.
Clinical externships are also included in some programs and allow students to earn real-life experience.
Basic Life Support and CPR training is also included in the curriculum.
Admission requirements vary depending on the school.
While some schools require a high school diploma, there are also programs that offer training for students who are still in high school.
Tests and proof of vaccination are also usually needed prior to enrollment into a PCT training program.
Most programs combine a classroom training part with hands-on on-site work.
Some schools provide hybrid programs that allow students to complete the theoretical part online and attend the school only for hands-on training.
Program duration varies but usually takes a few months to complete.
Some hospitals and nursing homes offer their own training programs for Certified Nursing Assistants and Patient Care Technicians, thus allowing students to learn in a real-life setting from day one.
Experience and Advancement Opportunities
There are no experience requirements for entry-level Patient Care Technician positions.
Employers usually provide a period of on-the-job training for their newly higher PCTs.
After earning a few years of experience, completing additional training, and passing additional certification exams, Patient Care Technicians can become Registered Nurses.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses earned a median wage of $77,600 annually-which is more than double the median reported by Nursing Assistants in May 2021.
Licensing Requirements For Patient Care Technicians
Certification requirements vary by state and depend on the type of credential you are seeking.
If you want to start by earning a Certified Nursing Assistant credential, a high school diploma or GED is usually required.
Being at least 18 years of age and able to pass a background check is another requirement in some states.
There are also states, such as Pennsylvania, that allow students who are over 16 to apply for CNA certification.
The certification exam consists of a written and a skills part.
In Pennsylvania, each of the two parts costs $102 for the first attempt.
The retake fee for the skills exam is $70, while the retake fee for the written part is $32.
Candidates are tested in five nursing skills and have to demonstrate appropriate hygiene.
The written part is multiple choice.
The National Center for Competency Testing, an independent credentialing organization, offers several certification routes for those who want to become Patient Care Technicians.
1. These requirements apply to those who are currently enrolled in a Patient Care Technician Program from a school authorized by the NCCT:
- Being a United States high school student, graduate, or holding an equivalent certificate
- Students need to submit a copy of their Patient Care Technician diploma, certificate of completion, or official transcript with graduation date to obtain full accreditation
- The documents required above must be submitted within two years after successfully completing the program in order to have your certification released.
2. Those who have graduated from a Patient Care Technician program from an approved school within the last five years, have to meet the following requirements:
- Be a high school graduate or hold equivalent credentials
- Submit a copy of their PCT diploma, certificate of completion, or transcript with a graduation date- this also applies to graduates of apprenticeships approved by the United States Department of Labor
3. Those who have one year of verifiable full-time work experience as a Patient Care Technician within the past five years can also apply for certification if they meet the following criteria:
- Be a high school graduate, hold a GED or another equivalent credential
- Have at least one year of experience or equivalent (2,080 hours) working as a PCT practitioner under the supervision of a licensed physician or primary care provider (within the last five years)
- Along with their high school diploma or equivalent, applicants also need to submit a form completed by their employer
4. The Military route includes two alternative paths:
- Applicants who have completed Patient Care Technician training or equivalent during U.S. Military service within the past five years
- Members of the United States Armed Forces and their spouses who have verifiable full-time experience as PCT practitioners within the past five years
The exam fee is $119.
The exam contains 125 content items and 25 unscored pretest items.
Candidates have three hours to complete the examination.
The exam covers five major content categories:
- Professional Responsibilities: the exam verifies if students know how to comply with regulations, provide emotional support, prioritize tasks, observe the chain of command in a healthcare setting, comply with laws that protect patients, and complete the rest of their responsibilities
- Safety and Infection Control: the exam tests knowledge on how to follow procedures, how to perform medical and surgical asepsis, biohazardous waste handling and disposal, transport patients safely, and many other tasks
- Direct Patient Care: the exam also covers topics such as performing measurements regarding height, weight, and BMI, visually inspecting specimens for abnormalities, preparing supplies and equipment, and more
- Phlebotomy: Orders and Equipment Selection and Collection, Problems, and Correction
ECG: Patient Comfort and Safety, Recording and Recognition of
- Abnormal Rhythms, Troubleshooting, and Maintenance.
Depending on the employer, Patient Care Technician positions may be open for those with a Certified Nursing Assistant Credential and additional certificates.
Some states allow CNAs and Patient Care Technicians to dispense medication if they earn a Certified Medication Assistant credential.
Continuing Education for Patient Care Technicians
Patient Care Technicians need to complete continuing education classes to keep up with the latest procedures in the field.
In some cases, the continuing education requirements are set by state regulations as a necessary condition for recertification.
Personal Skills Needed for Patient Care Technicians
There are several personal skills that are required when working directly with patients and their families.
- Patient Care Technicians should be compassionate because they work with people who are sick or injured and should show sympathy in their interaction with patients and their families
- Communication skills are also important because Patient Care Technicians have to understand and respond to patients’ concerns and questions and provide information to other healthcare workers
- Patience is another required skill because completing routine tasks, such as cleaning, feeding, and bating patients may sometimes be stressful.
- Patient Care Technicians have to move and lift patients, so they need physical stamina.
- They also need to keep calm during stressful situations and know how to interact with patients in distress.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does It Take to Become a Patient Care Technician?
Most Patient Care Technician programs take less than one year to complete.
Before being ready to apply for certification in this field, you have to graduate from high school or earn an equivalent diploma.
Some Patient Care Technicians start their careers as Certified Nursing Assistants.
CNA training usually takes around a month and prepares students for the certification exam that makes them eligible for employment.
How Much Does a Patient Care Technician Make?
Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide specific salary information about Patient Care Technicians, data is available for Nursing Assistants, which sometimes have a similar job description.
The median annual wage reported by Nursing Assistants in the United States in 2021 was $30,310.
Salaries range depending on a wide range of factors, including experience level, education, certifications, and region of employment.
Most Nursing Assistants earn annual salaries between $24,000 and $44,000.
Will Patient Care Technicians Continue to Be Needed in the Future?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for healthcare professionals, in general, is projected to grow 16 percent from 2020 to 2030, higher than the average growth across all occupations.
The nursing assistant occupation will grow 8 percent, with additional openings expected to stem from the need to care for the aging baby boom generation.
Do I Need a License to Practice The Patient Care Technician Profession?
Although licensure requirements vary by state, Patient Care Technicians typically need a license or certification before being ready for employment and being allowed to work directly with patients.
Additional certification may be required before Patient Care Technicians are allowed to dispense medication.
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