Are you interested in working in healthcare but just can't see yourself as a doctor or nurse? There's a hands-on patient care role that doesn't get a lot of attention. It's critical to the welfare of patients and the smooth operation of quality medical treatment. You'll have the chance to make a real difference for extended-stay patients.
That role is called a Patient Care Technician, or PCT. So, what is a PCT in a hospital, what do they do, and how do you become one?
What Is A Patient Care Technician?
Patient care technicians are part of a larger care team. They directly support patients as they undergo medical care and perform some clinical tasks. They work in hospitals, long-term care (LTC) facilities, nursing homes, and home healthcare settings.
Also known as patient techs, PCT nurses, or PCT medicals, these healthcare professionals streamline medical care and improve a patient's comfort.
What Does A Patient Care Technician Do?
PCTs work under the supervision of doctors or nurses to:
- Monitor patient condition, take note of patient concerns, and notify the rest of the care team
- Serve meals, feed patients when needed, and monitor food/fluid intake
- Change bedding, dress or bathe patients, prevent bedsores, and assist with restroom needs
- Help patients walk, get into wheelchairs, and perform range-of-motion exercises
- Check blood pressure, heart rate, and pulse regularly
- Obtain specimens like blood or urine, conduct tests, and escort patients to diagnostic imaging
- Oversee patient medications and administer IVs
- Provide emotional support to patients and loved ones
- Some provide specialized care like catheterization or dialysis
Exactly which tasks and duties you'll carry out depends on your jurisdiction, employer policies, and level of experience, so keep that in mind.
These services are vital parts of patient care. By taking responsibility for these tasks, patient techs improve the quality of a patient's experience and free up the time of other medical staff for different work.
What Other Skills Does a PCT Need?
Patient techs obviously need certain medical skills and knowledge to provide certain care.
The "soft skills" they bring to the job may be even more important, however.
A patient tech's role requires excellent communication and interpersonal skills so that they can interact effectively with patients, loved ones, and other healthcare workers.
Compassion and patience are also musts. A lot of PCT work is repetitive, but more importantly, you'll be spending a lot of time with people who are hurting, frustrated, and scared. They won't be on their best behavior, and part of your job is to control your own emotions and provide comfort.
Additionally, PCT tasks require a lot of physical stamina. You'll spend most of your day on your feet, and you'll need to perform physically demanding tasks like moving patients.
How is a Patient Care Technician Different From Similar Jobs?
A lot of overlap exists between different members of a patient care team. Sometimes the differences are subtle and depend on the size or type of medical facility, as well as the way that facility is run.
Patient Care Technicians vs Nursing Assistants
PCT nurses and nursing assistants perform similar jobs. The primary difference is the level of care.
They share many basic patient care tasks, like feeding, bathing, repositioning, and moving patients. Both are also trained to monitor and record vital signs.
However, patient techs also have training in certain advanced tasks, which can include drawing blood, administering EKGs, delivering medications, collecting specimens for testing, assisting with therapeutic exercise, providing wound care, inserting and maintaining catheters, or operating dialysis equipment.
Patient Care Technicians vs Clinical Medical Assistants
PCT medicals and clinical medical assistants (CMAs) differ in their job's focus and their typical setting.
PCTs focus primarily on tending to a patient's physical and emotional well-being, including helping patients with self-care tasks that they're incapable of performing for themselves. Their clinical duties are tasks that require frequent repetition and slide easily into an overall care routine. By the nature of their work, they're mostly employed at inpatient facilities, where patients are debilitated and are in for extended stays.
CMAs focus primarily on performing routine clinical tasks, assisting with medical exams, and some administrative tasks like appointment scheduling. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than half of medical assistants work in physician's offices and other outpatient facilities, where patients come and go.
How Long Does It Take to Be A PCT?
You can typically become a patient tech in about a year. You'll undergo a post-secondary education program and take an exam to become certified.
Patient Care Technician Requirements
Requirements for becoming a PCT vary from state to state. Some states require PCTs to be licensed or certified. Check with your state or local regulations to learn what's required where you live.
In most cases, you need a high school diploma or the equivalent, like a GED. You'll also need to complete a training program to gain the knowledge and skills you'll need for your job. PCT education programs usually prepare you to pass a certification exam from an independent third party.
If your jurisdiction regulates PCT credentials, make sure both your training program and the certification exam you're being prepared for are approved by the local regulating body. If your credentials aren't regulated by the local government, check job listings in your area and see what type of certification they require.
Patient Care Technician Program Length
Most PCT education programs take between 8 and 12 months to complete.
For example, our online PCT training program requires 300 hours of study, to be completed in 12 months or less.
During that time, you'll study topics like:
- Infection Control & Standard Precaution
- Legal Issues in Healthcare
- Introduction to Anatomy & Physiology
- Medical Terminology
- Physical Assessment & Examination
- Patient Positioning and Bed Mobility Techniques
- Range of Motion
- Therapeutic Exercises
- Patient Gait
- Assistive Devices
- Orthosis and Prosthesis
- Transfer Techniques
- Wound Care and Pressure Sores
- Wheelchair Management
- Patient Care Competency
- Other Special Topics
There are a few exams you can take to become a certified PCT, including certification exams awarded from the National Healthcareer Association (NHA), the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), and the American Medical Certification Association (AMCA).
Our online PCT training program prepares you to pass the NHA's Certified Patient Care Technician (CPCT) Level I exam and includes a voucher to cover the cost of exam registration. It's a 100-question test you can take at a PSI testing center near you.
The NHA is a well-respected, nationally recognized certifying agency that's accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).
Once certified, you'll need to complete 10 continuing education credits every 2 years to earn re-certification. This assures potential employers you'll stay up to date in your field and continue your professional development.
Why Take PCT Training With Meditec?
Meditec has over 50 years of experience in distance career training, with more than half of those delivered online. Our programs are self-paced and 100% online, so you can study when and where it's most convenient – no commuting to a classroom or rearranging your current responsibilities to get the education you need.
Are you a military spouse? If so, you may qualify for tuition assistance from the DOD through a program called MyCAA. Our PCT training program is MyCAA-approved and eligible. Better yet, you won't have any out-of-pocket costs. We'll even provide a new laptop to every student when you register – it's yours to keep, for free!
What are you waiting for? Contact us now and prepare to become a certified PCT!