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Patient Care Technician Certification and Training

Learn about your options for pursuing patient care technician programs, including those at the 1-year and 2-year levels, and review the certification requirements. Find out more about what these healthcare technicians do, and get info on the job outlook and salary potential for the career.

What You Need To Know

A patient care technician is an essential part of the medical community and is charged with the comfort and well-being of patients. An associate's degree and specialized certificate programs are usually necessary for this field. Different certifications are available based on nursing specialty.

Training Associate's degree; diploma or certificate programs
Classes Human biology, pathology and pharmacology, electronic health records, ethics, medical terminology
Certification Phlebotomy Technician, Medical Assistant, ECG Technician, Patient Care Technician

Sources: Saint Louis College of Health Careers, U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Center for Competency Testing

What Do Patient Care Technicians Do?

As a patient care technician, you would work in hospitals, residential care facilities or in patients' homes. The main bulk of your work involves extensive one-on-one contact with patients. Your assigned tasks include attending to a patient's comfort and basic needs, such as bathing, eating and dressing. You may also draw blood for testing and perform basic diagnostic tests under the supervision of nurses or other medical staff.

What Training Do I Need For this Career?

You are typically required to complete a patient care technician (PCT) program before you can work in this field. Such programs are offered as certificates, diplomas or associate's degree programs. Most are labeled as PCT programs, but some are offered as medical assistant programs with patient care technician concentrations. The Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools is a nationally recognized accreditation body for patient care technician programs. Programs may have specific accreditation, or the school offering the program may have institutional accreditation.

Your coursework will include training in:

  • Meal preparation
  • Electrocardiogram examinations
  • Phlebotomy

You may also complete an off-campus externship to obtain real world work experience. Many patient care technician programs are residential; however, online programs are also available.

How Do I Become Certified?

You may become a certified patient care technician through a nationally recognized organization such as the National Center for Competency Testing. The certification process involves passing an examination that tests your knowledge of a number of subjects, including medical terminology, basic anatomy and ethical issues. To qualify for the examination, you must have completed a program approved by the NCCT within the previous ten years or have completed at least 2,080 hours of full-time or part-time employment as a patient care technician during the previous ten years.

What Are My Career Prospects?

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics states that job growth for nursing assistants between the years 2016 and 2026 is expected to exceed the national average with growth of 11% (www.bls.gov). Individuals with specialized training or who hold certification will have the best prospects. The national median pay for patient care technicians is $13.12 per hour, as of July 2018 (www.PayScale.com).