How Do I Become a Patient Care Technician?

Explore the career requirements for a Patient Care Technician. Get the facts about education, training, and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Patient Care Technician?

Patient care technicians make sure that patients are happy, healthy and well cared for in health care facilities. This includes monitoring vital signs, ensuring safety and cleanliness in the patients' rooms, taking care of catheters and other care supplies, and bathing and feeding patients. They also may end up helping patients meet their social needs and provide emotional support for grieving families. The table below outlines some of the general career information for patient care technicians.

Degree Required High School Diploma, Certificate from Patient Care Technician Program
Key Skills First Aid and CPR, Disease Prevention, Laboratory Procedure, EKGs, Phlebotomy
Certification Required PCT certification, with additional certifications required depending on employer and state requirements
Job Growth (2014-2024) 17% for nursing assistants and orderlies*
Median Salary (2015) $$25,710 for nursing assistants and orderlies*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What do Patient Care Technicians Do?

Patient care technicians (PCT) work in a variety of health care settings like assisted living communities, hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities. Required skills and type of patient care will vary dependent on this setting. As a PCT, you could assist patients in the activities of daily living such as bathing, eating and dressing. A patient care technician may be required to collect specimens and do diagnostic testing. Some of this testing may involve taking blood samples (phlebotomy) or running electrocardiograms (EKGs).

What Kind of Education or Training Will I Need?

To pursue a career as a PCT, you typically enter a community college or vocational training program that leads to a certificate upon completion. Courses in the program generally include applied healthcare topics, such as phlebotomy, first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). You may also be taught disease prevention and basic laboratory procedure, as well as to perform and understand EKGs. The certificate program equips you with the skills and know-how for work as an entry-level patient care technician.

Schools usually only require you to have a high school diploma to apply to a PCT program. Additionally, some hospitals may provide training or tuition reimbursement. The reimbursement percentage and requirements for the program vary by host care facility.

Once you complete your PCT training, you may need additional certifications. For example, some states may require that you become a certified nursing assistant (CNA). These certifications requirements vary, so you'll want to check your state's requirements. Employers may have additional requirements or certification needs. Even if these certifications aren't required, they may help you in your career. Many PCTs use this experience as a stepping-stone toward other healthcare occupations.

What is the Job Outlook?

The BLS predicts that the health care industry should generate a 17% increase, between 2014 and 2024 for nursing assistants and orderlies ( A career in nursing or residential care facilities, which includes PCTs, is expected to have a great job outlook because an increasing elderly population is living longer, due to advances in medicine and technology.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Depending on the facility, PCTs are sometimes also known as nursing assistants or nursing aides. Other related occupations are medical assistants, home health aides, and personal care aides. Similar to PCTs, personnel in these fields typically possess a high school diploma, with medical assistants often possessing a post-secondary certificate.

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