October 26, 2023
How to Become a Patient Care Technician

Patient care technicians (PCTs) are invaluable healthcare team members who provide primary care and comfort alongside doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers. PCTs perform a wide range of activities such as bathing, feeding, transporting, and ensuring other care needs.

Working as a PCT is a great stepping stone into the medical field as well as a wonderful way to explore other careers in healthcare. If you're interested in a career as a patient care technician, this guide is for you. We will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the profession such as what a PCT does, how much they earn, what the educational requirements are, how the training can help you pursue other healthcare careers, and many other aspects you need to know!

We Found The Following Schools with Online Patient Care Technician Programs

Part One What Is a Patient Care Technician?

Patient care technicians work with doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals to provide primary care to patients. You will find them working in a variety of locations such as hospitals, private physicians’ offices, nursing homes, dialysis centers, rehabilitation centers, and any other hands-on healthcare setting.

Each state and facility has a slightly different job description for their patient care technicians. However, no matter where you work, you must complete a state-approved educational program that teaches basic patient care, CPR training, checking vital signs, and other basic patient care skills.

Upon completing education and certification, patient care techs build upon their skill sets through on-the-job training within a healthcare facility.

Part Two What Do Patient Care Technicians Do?

PCTs have a wide range of responsibilities from medical tasks, such as taking vital signs, to basic care tasks, such as feeding and bathing patients. PCTs are often also responsible for transporting patients for diagnostic testing and for discharge from the hospital.

Two of the most critical responsibilities a PCT has are providing emotional support to patients and families, and assisting with communication regarding patient care needs.

Some of the other duties a patient care technician does are:

  • Bathing
  • Feeding
  • Toileting
  • Ambulation
  • Lifting and turning patients
  • Catheter care
  • Obtaining electrocardiograms readings (ECG)
  • Monitoring vital signs such as blood pressure, O2 saturation, and temperature
  • Drawing blood and other phlebotomy procedures
  • Perform safety checks
  • Ensure rooms are clean 
  • Assistance with staff communication

PCTs must also have the ability to communicate patient questions and concerns with staff and provide emotional support to patients and their families. Because they are in constant contact with patients, they can often serve as the eyes and ears for changes in condition.  

Part Three Patient Care Technician Salary

According to the website Salary.com, the average patient care technician salary in the United States is $35,972, with a range between $31,352 and $39,503. 

However, the salary you can earn as a PCT depends on a host of variables, including your years of experience, level of education, certifications, and other skill sets you bring to the job. Pay also depends on the type of facility you work in and the cost of living in the location where you live.

Highest Paying Cities for Patient Care Technicians

According to ZipRecruiter.com, the ten cities paying the highest salaries for patient care technicians are: 

  • Santa Cruz, CA - $46,484 annually, or $22.35/hr
  • Sunnyvale, CA - $45,430 annually, or $21.84/hr
  • Livermore, CA - $44,890 annually, or $21.58/hr
  • San Francisco Metro Area, CA - $44,764 annually, or $21.52/hr
  • Inverness, CA - $44,666 annually, or $21.47/hr
  • Kernville, CA - $44,608 annually, or $21.45/hr
  • Barnstable Town, MA - $44,150 annually, or $21.23/hr
  • Union City, CA - $43,888 annually, or $21.10/hr
  • Kent, WA - $43,731 annually, or $21.02/hr
  • Vacaville, CA - $343,678 annually, or $21.00/hr

PCT Benefits

Patient care technicians who work full time are also eligible for employee benefits that add to the value of their compensation. These include healthcare insurance, dental care insurance, paid time off and sick leave, and tuition reimbursement.

Part Four How to Become a Patient Care Technician

Step 1.) Earn a High School Diploma or GED

The minimum requirement to apply to a patient care technician program is a high school diploma or GED. So, before you go any further you’ll need to complete this step.

Step 2.) Complete a Patient Care Technician Program

Next, you’ll need to enroll in a patient care technician program. You can complete your coursework through a certificate program or community college program. 

Most programs usually take four to eight months to complete. Financial aid such as loans, grants, or scholarships may be available if you need them.

Patient Care Technician Program Coursework

Some of the coursework you will complete during your programs includes:

  • Patient Care Skills
  • Basic Life Support (BLS)
  • Electronic Medical Records
  • Communication in the Healthcare Setting
  • EKG Skills
  • Medical Terminology
  • Phlebotomy
  • Rehabilitation Skills
  • Math in the Healthcare Setting

Step 3.) Take the Certification Exam

Upon graduation, students can take the Nationally Registered Certified Patient Care Technician (NRCPCT) credentialing exam. This exam requires a passing score of 70%. It signals to employers and other medical providers that you possess the knowledge and skills needed to provide competent patient care within a health care setting.  

PCT students can also take an exam to earn their credentials to be a Certified Patient Care Technician (CPCT) via the National Healthcare Association website. This certification program offers available study materials if you need them. You can take the test at a testing center near you or at a location of your choice with live remote proctoring.

We Found The Following Schools with Online Patient Care Technician Programs

Part Five What Is the Career Outlook for Patient Care Technicians?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics places PCTs under the same umbrella as nursing assistants and orderlies (healthcare professionals who provide basic patient care and assistance with activities of daily living). This professional group will grow approximately 4% between 2022-2032, which is much faster than average professions.

In 2022, 1,406,800 healthcare workers were working in primary patient care roles. There will be a need for an additional 58,400 healthcare providers in the next ten years. The high demand is due to the aging baby boomer generation and their anticipated need for medical care in hospitals and long-term care facilities. 

Part Six What are the Continuing Education Requirements for Patient Care Technicians?

PCTs must renew their certification every two years. You will be required to complete ten continuing education credits to show you are continually updating your knowledge and skills. 

Free continuing education classes that teach the latest protocols and techniques are available to members via the National Healthcare Association website

Part Seven Where Can I Learn More About Becoming a Patient Care Technician?

To learn more about becoming a PCT, you can visit the following websites:

We Found The Following Schools with Online Patient Care Technician Programs

Part Eight Patient Care Technician FAQs

  • What’s the difference between a patient care technician and a certified nursing assistant (CNA)?

    • PCTs and CNAs have very similar job descriptions. They both provide basic patient care such as bathing, feeding, ambulation, toileting, lifting and turning patients, giving catheter care, taking EKG readings, monitoring vital signs, and managing room cleanliness. However, in many cases, patient care technicians can also perform blood draws and other phlebotomy procedures. 
    • Certified nursing assistants work under the supervision of registered nurses, and PCTs do not. However, PCTs do help nursing staff with many of the same tasks as CNAs. Lastly, PCTs are nationally certified, and CNAs have state licensure.
  • How long does it take to become a PCT?

    • Most PCT programs take 4 to 8 months. Upon graduation, they must pass the national certification examination to practice. Most employers will also provide on-the-job training specific to their facility’s needs. 
  • What qualifications do you need to be a PCT?

    • Course requirements vary slightly based on your state. However, the minimum requirement to be a PCT is to complete a community college or certificate PCT program and pass the certification exam.
    • In addition to a PCT training program’s basic skills and knowledge, working in the profession requires patience, compassion, and excellent communication skills. PCTs often work in stressful working environments where patients may be in the middle of a significant health crisis. PCTs must have the ability to stay calm and provide compassionate care, especially when patients are experiencing duress. 
  • Who gets paid more, CNAs or PCTs?

    • PCTs and CNAs generally earn about the same annual income, which is usually between $22,500 to $56,500 annually. However, the salaries are highly dependent on geographical location, the type of facility you work in, and years of experience on the job.  
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