Patient care technicians (PCT) work alongside nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals. PCTs are responsible for interacting with patients in a medical facility, administering basic care, and providing general assistance. Some common tasks include tracking progress during physical therapy sessions, checking vital signs, helping patients with mobility issues, delivering test samples, and acting as a liaison for patients and their family members.
The salary for PCTs greatly varies by location, but on average, PCTs made close to $15 an hour, based on median pay data from 2020. Because of the high demand for more healthcare workers, hospitals and other medical facilities are frequently hiring new PCTs. Compared to other healthcare jobs, PCTs do not have as many education requirements. PCTs must pass a certification exam, with some states having additional certification requirements. More information about what PCTs do and how to become a PCT is covered below.
Education and Training Requirements
While you do not need a degree to become a PCT, you are strongly encouraged to get one. Many hospitals and medical clinics prioritize or even require applicants who have at least an associate degree in medical science or another relevant field. No matter where you work, you must get certified as a PCT, but some states also require getting certified as a nursing assistant.
If you do not want to get a degree, you can instead complete a diploma program instead. Diploma programs cover all the relevant information you need to succeed as a PCT, without the general education courses included with an associate degree. Most diploma programs take a year to complete. Diploma programs are less expensive than getting your degree, but there are limited financial aid options compared to getting your degree. Diploma programs are commonly taught at community colleges and vocational schools. There are also some online programs available as well.
Getting your degree or a diploma not only teaches you the basics. Many classes include clinical training in the program. This allows you to work in a medical facility, getting real-world experience. This not only gives you a trial run at being a PCT, but it is also an excellent way to network with medical professionals, making it easier to find a job once you graduate. You can also list the experience on your resume, giving you an edge over other applicants.
Becoming Certified as a PCT
Once you complete your training, the next step to becoming a PCT is completing the Certified Patient Care Technician (CPCT) exam. The exam is divided into five categories. The largest section focuses on patient care, taking up nearly 50 percent of the exam. The next largest section is compliance, safety and professional responsibility, which is 20 percent of the exam. The other 30 percent is made up of infection control, phlebotomy, and EKG.
The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) has more information on the certification process, including where you can take the certification exam in your state. You can also download a handbook, which covers the certification process and goes over the subjects included in the test.
While it is not necessary to become a PCT, you can also get certified as a phlebotomy technician. Phlebotomy technicians have some overlap with PCTs, as both perform blood tests. Getting the additional certification not only looks good on your resume but PCTs are typically paid higher wages if they have both certifications.
Applying for a PCT Job
PCTs are necessary for almost all medical facilities. PCTs most commonly work in hospitals, but nursing homes and residential care facilities also need PCTs. In 2020, due to Covid-19, there was also an increased demand for PCTs for home healthcare services. In some cases, you can also get a job working in ambulatory health care services. Select government agencies also hire PCTs.
Key Skills to Succeed as a PCT
There are many important skills needed to succeed as a PCT. Medical knowledge is important, but you must also have excellent people skills. Many PCT responsibilities involve directly interacting with not only the patient but family members as well. Not only must you be able to clearly communicate with patients, but you must be calm and keep a level head, even in stressful situations. The last thing a patient wants to see is their PCT worrying about an upcoming exam or test results. Doctors and nurses rely on you to keep patients comfortable.
You must also be able to anticipate your patient’s needs, especially when administering long-term care. Patients are not always comfortable sharing everything with their PCT. This is especially common if they are having mobility issues or are unable to perform basic tasks like eating or dressing without assistance. Many patients are embarrassed about these issues and try to hide them from their doctors. As a PCT, you must make your patient feel safe enough to share their issues with you, and also come up with plans to assist them.