Becoming a Patient Care Technician is an exciting new career choice for people who enjoy helping others. This profession offers those who are passionate about serving the public with valuable opportunities to work in a variety of settings and help the community in many different ways.
Patient Care Technicians often work as part of an interdisciplinary team that includes nurses, doctors, therapists, and other medical professionals. They provide patient care in hospitals, clinics, or home-based settings, and also offer some administrative duties as well. Read on to learn more about this opportunity!
What does a patient care technician do?
In the United States, a patient care technician is a regulated health care professional who provides routine, non-urgent patient care to patients. The most common tasks that a patient care technician performs are vital signs monitoring, wound care, and assisting with treatments.
A patient care technician’s job is not as simple as it may seem. Patient care technicians go through rigorous training to gain the skills they need for their work.
They must also be up to date on all the latest medical practices and equipment. If you’re interested in this new career path, keep reading for some information about what it takes to become a patient care technician and how much you can expect to earn in this field.
A patient care technician is a health care professional who supports nurses, doctors and other medical staff in caring for patients during hospital stays or other visits. Patient care technicians observe, catalog and communicate needs and concerns to medical staff while reporting any changes in status to the patient’s care team.
These professionals are responsible for making patients feel comfortable and cared for, which often requires them to provide emotional support and guidance to patients during their hospital stay or clinic visit. Some additional responsibilities of a patient care technician may include:
Providing basic patient care including bathing and feeding
Conducting regular patient rounds and meeting with the patient’s family members when necessary
Monitoring patients’ food and liquid intake, making note of any irregularities
Obtaining specimens, conducting tests and recording results
Checking blood pressure, heart rate and pulse on a routine basis
Escorting patients to X-rays and other diagnostic imaging procedures
Salaries for patient care technicians are often determined by the candidate’s level of education, experience and skills, as well as the position’s specific job responsibilities. The position’s geographic location can also impact their earning potential.
Common salary in the U.S.: $13.56 per hour
Salaries range from $7.25 to $28.50 per hour.
Patient care technician requirements
The necessary education and training to become a patient care technician will depend on the responsibilities of the position. However, some basic requirements are standard across the profession.
The educational requirements for patient care technicians may vary based on the position and its responsibilities. Those who want to become patient care technicians must complete a state-approved educational program in which they learn the basics of nursing assistance and be required to complete supervised clinical work. These programs can be found at technical schools, community colleges and universities.
In many states, patient care technicians must pass the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) exam as well as a certification exam through the National Healthcare Association before obtaining a certification from the state. Some employers may also require patient care technicians to pass a pre-employment background check and complete continuing education credits or training while they are employed.
Patient care technicians will receive hands-on clinical training as part of their educational program. This training enables individuals to learn basic tasks involved with patient care, including how to properly bathe, feed, transport and lift patients as well as how to check for vitals and perform CPR. Additional training may be needed, depending on the specific position and employer.
Certifications for patient care technicians will depend on the state and the employer’s requirements. Some patient care technicians may be required to obtain a certified nursing assistant (CNA) certification under state regulations. Some employers may also require a certified medication assistant (CMA) certification if the professional will be administering medication as part of their job duties. Check state and employer requirements to determine which certifications are necessary to become a patient care technician in your area.
Patient care technicians will learn most of the necessary skills for this position as part of their education program and certification preparation. However, being an effective patient care technician also requires skills that they can learn outside of the field. Here are some of the most relevant and important skills patient care technicians should develop:
Patient care technicians need to communicate effectively both with patients and the facility’s medical team. These professionals work directly with patients regularly making sure that they have a positive experience, and they also have to communicate patient status and changes in health to doctors, nurses and other medical staff. These tasks may require the professional to adapt their communication style to effectively obtain and relay information.
The routine tasks of feeding, bathing and providing other types of essential care often require high levels of patience, especially if the patient is in pain or uncooperative. Patient care technicians must have the ability to accurately and effectively perform these tasks regularly.
Patient care technicians work regularly with patients who are sick, injured and sometimes elderly. Interacting with and caring for these patients effectively requires compassion and empathy. Compassion is also necessary when addressing patient families who may be distraught or distracted due to their loved one’s health.
Being a patient care technician is a physically-demanding job. These professionals spend much of their workday on their feet, and the job can also require them to lift and move patients. Regular exercise, proper nutrition and adequate sleep can help patient care technicians maintain their own health and improve their endurance and stamina.
Patient care technician work environment
While the majority of patient care technicians work in state, local and private hospitals, these professionals can also work for nursing care facilities, retirement communities, government facilities, assisted living facilities and home health care providers. These professionals typically work full time, but hours will vary depending on the facility’s shifts.
Their work can be strenuous and often requires the professional to be on their feet for most, if not all, of their shift. Learning how to properly lift and transport patients can help professionals reduce the risk of injury. Taking steps to stay healthy through adequate sleep, nutrition and exercise can help avoid illness.
How to become a patient care technician
Many of these professionals go through the following steps to pursue a career as a patient care technician:
1. Obtain a high school diploma
Earn a high school diploma or the equivalent, focusing on elective courses in communications, science and physical education. While earning your high school diploma, work on improving relevant skills like communication through clubs and activities that involve working and collaborating with others.
2. Pursue a state-approved educational program
The required educational program for patient care technicians will depend on the state and employer’s requirements. Choose an educational program that fits your specific goals in the industry.
3. Complete supervised clinical practice
As part of your state-approved educational program, you will get the chance to earn hands-on experience while completing the clinical practice portion of your educational program. This requires you to provide basic patient care under the supervision of a medical professional. Take this opportunity to ask your supervisor questions regarding proper techniques and procedures.
4. Earn your certification
After you have completed a state-approved educational program and gained the skills and knowledge necessary to become a patient care technician, you will need to pass the certification exams required by your state and employer. You may consider taking a certification preparation course as you study for these tests. Make sure that you check with your state for the necessary certifications.
5. Apply to patient care technician positions
Once you have finished the educational program and passed the required certification exams, it’s time to start looking for and applying to patient care technician positions. Before you apply, you will need to develop a comprehensive resume that clearly describes your education, training, experience and skills in concise language that aligns your qualifications with the expectations of the job role.
Patient care technician job description example
Berry town Community Hospital is looking for an experienced patient care technician (PCT) to work night shifts in our busy ICU. Our PCTs help us meet patient and family needs by providing direct patient care under the supervision of the registered nurse.
The patient care technician will assist in examinations and procedures by checking patient vital signs, heights and weights as well as performing EKGs and other unit specific duties. This individual is also responsible for maintaining a clean and orderly patient care environment while remaining compliant with all infection control practices.
Our ideal PCT candidate will have at least six months of experience providing direct patient care in a hospital environment. CNA certification is required.