What is a Patient Care Technician – Overview
Patient care technicians (PCTs) are professionals trained to assist nurses in keeping patients healthy and comfortable. A PCT is essential to the healthcare industry as they work to take care of technical details that can have a huge impact on the quality of care and patient experience. Most often, PCT is a stepping stone to becoming a registered nurse (RN).
As healthcare industry jobs continue to grow in demand, experts expect the industry to grow by 16% before 2030, which is far greater than any other industry. The healthcare industry is expected to provide nearly 2.6 million jobs too. Being a professional in the healthcare industry is definitely fruitful, especially if you like interacting with patients and caring for them on a regular basis.
Let’s take a closer look at what patient care technicians do, how to become a PCT and their career outlook for them in the coming times.
What is a Patient Care Technician?
A Patient Care Technician is a medical professional who provides daily care for patients under the supervision of a registered nurse or a team of nurses. PCTs are responsible for taking the patient’s vital signs, helping move the patient around the clinic and such duties.
The ultimate responsibility of a patient care technician is to ensure that patients feel comfortable and are nurtured well in a healthcare facility, such as a clinic or hospital. These professionals are also responsible for communicating any changes in the patient’s medical condition and reporting any potential issues to the supervisor.
As a patient care technician, some of the major responsibilities that you will be handling are:
- Offering emotional support for patients and their families
- Collecting urine, blood and stool samples and delivering them to the lab
- Checking the patient’s vital signs, such as pulse, temperature, and blood pressure
- Performing certain medical tests and recording results
- Serving patients meals and monitoring their food and beverage intake
- Reporting any changes in the patient’s condition to the responsible nurse or team of nurses
- Accompanying patients for x-ray exams or when discharging patients from the hospital
- Assisting patients with exercise and mobility activities
What is the Salary for a Patient Care Technician?
Though the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not maintain a listing specifically for patient care technicians, it is reported that their annual median salary is around USD 30,290 or around USD 14.56 per hour, for nursing assistants. This salary range can vary significantly depending on the location of employment, experience level, and patient care setting (clinics, hospitals, long-term care facilities, etc.)
The career prospects for patient care technicians and other types of nursing assistants show incredible potential for growth and are expected to grow at a rate of 8% between 2020 and 2030, faster than the average growth rate of other similar occupations.
Are there different types of Patient Care Technicians?
Yes, there are several different types of patient care technician jobs today. For instance, PCTs can work in multiple kinds of medical settings, including doctor’s offices, clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities and home health services.
Though many are generalists, there are some specializations to choose from in this career path. Some of these specializations usually require additional education or training.
Some of the most common types of patient care technician jobs in the healthcare industry today are:
1. Telemetry Technician
A telemetry technician is responsible for the following:
- Performing EKGs
- Notifying doctors and nurses when a patient’s condition changes
- Monitoring a patient’s heart wave-forms
2. Dialysis Technician
A PCT working as a dialysis technician is responsible for the following:
- Stopping and starting dialysis for patients suffering from kidney failure
- Keeping dialysis equipment sterile and ready for use
- Providing support to patients for dialysis procedure
3. Hospital Care Technician
A PCT working as a hospital care technician is involved in the following:
- Working regular shifts at hospitals and assigned to certain patients
- Monitoring patient’s vital signs
- Helping with wound care, gastric tubes, catheter and IVs
4. Emergency Room Technicians
An emergency room technician is responsible for the following:
- Working in the fast-paced ER
- Taking medical histories, vital signs, and important information from patients
- Assisting doctors and nurses with diagnostic exams
5. Rehabilitation Technician
A PCT working as a rehabilitation technician is responsible for the following:
- Providing support for patients in mental care hospitals, and those with substance abuse disorders
- Assisting patients with basic daily living needs
- Helping to stabilize the patient’s unruly behavior
A PCT working as a phlebotomist is responsible for the following:
- Drawing blood for testing
- Assisting with blood transfusions
How to become a Patient Care Technician?
Now that you know the responsibilities and career prospects of working as a patient care technician, let’s take a closer look at how to become a PCT in the US.
To be a patient care technician, you must have excellent technical and people skills. Below are listed the certifications and training you will need to acquire to become a professional patient care technician:
A high school diploma or GED is essential to become a patient care technician. Apart from this, education and certification requirements for PCTs may vary from state to state and even depend on the location of employment and the type of PCT you want.
2. Special Training
Most states in the US require aspirants to complete a certified nursing assistant (CNA) training program at community colleges, vocational schools or technical schools. During this training, you will learn basic medical terminology, physiology and anatomy, pharmacology, medical laws, safety, medical records management, and other such skills.
Additionally, you will also learn technical skills, such as catheterization, wound care, first aid and CPR. Besides this, you will also need to complete an internship as part of the training program to learn to apply the skills in clinical settings. These training programs usually require two years of full-time study.
Once you complete the required education and training programs, you must pass the Certified Patient Care Technician/Assistant (CPCT/A) certification exam. Remember, some states may also require additional certifications and background checks.
Some aspirants choose to work as PCTs while pursuing their education for an advanced career in healthcare. For instance, aspiring registered nurses and even doctors may pursue a PCT program to get clinical experience and get paid during that time.
As a patient care technician, your main responsibility will be assisting registered nurses in caring for patients regularly. You should have a high school diploma/GED and earn the relevant training and certification before applying to work as a PCT in a healthcare setting.