Patient Care Technician

PCT vs Medical Assistant

Venice Nuyda
May 3, 2023

Patient Care Technicians (PCTs) and Medical Assistants(MA) are crucial in the healthcare industry. They support doctors and nurses to ensure patients receive proper care and treatment. These two roles may have similar duties, but they still have distinctions in their job.

A PCT provides hands-on care to patients, working alongside nurses. PCTs are responsible for delivering fundamental care services to patients.

An MA carries out tasks in both administrative and clinical roles. Duties include appointment scheduling and monitoring patient information. They perform basic lab tests and administer medications under the supervision of professionals. 

MAs have a broader range of duties and responsibilities than PCTs. Do you want to learn more about the similarities and differences between the two? Read on to find out!

PCT vs MA: Job Description

PCTs work directly with patients and their families. They ensure that their patients receive quality care. They also work under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN). PCTs commonly work in hospitals but can also find employment in various facilities. Other workplaces include assisted living facilities, nursing homes, long-term facilities, and Hospices.

Key Roles:

  • Providing basic patient care- Assisting with activities of daily living (ADLs) like bathing, grooming, feeding, and toileting.
  • Monitoring and recording vital signs, such as blood pressure, temperature, pulse, and respiration.
  • Administering medication- Oral and topical medications under the direction of a nurse or physician.
  • Assisting with medical procedures, such as catheterization and wound care
  • Keeping patient rooms tidy and sanitized
  • Taking fluid samples of patients for specimen testing
  • Providing extra emotional care and support to patients through communication

Skills needed:

  • Knowledge in phlebotomy and vital signs measurement
  • Able to use electronic health records systems and medical equipment
  • Detail-oriented and able to record and report patient information
  • Solve problems related to patient care and work with other healthcare professionals
  • Communicate with patients, families, and healthcare professionals
  • Able to build relationships with patients and their families. Show empathy, and exhibit patience and understanding.
  • Able to stand or walk for long periods and perform other physical-demanding tasks

MAs are responsible for tasks to help both medical professionals and patients. They help to complete tasks like filing insurance forms. They also provide clinical care for patients. Most MAs work in physicians’ offices, hospitals, outpatient clinics, and other healthcare facilities.

Key Roles:

  • Interviewing patients and documenting medical history
  • Providing patients with education on their health condition, treatment options, and preventative measures
  • Organizing and scheduling medical appointments
  • Taking basic medical tests such as vital signs
  • Performing oxygen titration on patients
  • Administering medications- Including vaccinations/immunizations as directed by a physician or other medical professional
  • Maintaining and sterilizing medical equipment and supplies
  • Providing injections and vaccinations to patients
  • Communicating with patients and their families, explaining medical concerns, test results, and treatment plans.
  • Wound care, removing stitches, and changing dressings 
  • Handling payments, accounts, and other financial records

Skills needed:

  • Knowledge of medical managing systems and procedures
  • Efficient time management and ability to multi-task in a fast-paced environment
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Knowledge of patient management software
  • Strong organizational and planning skills
  • Able to build relationships with patients and their families. Show enthusiasm and exhibit patience.

PCT vs MA: Education & Training

Patient Care Technician Education and Training

  • You need to complete a state-approved PCT training program to get a certification. The cost and length of the program depend on the school and the state's requirements. A typical PCT training program would last approximately 600 hours and up to 8 months. Training programs cost anywhere between $1,800 and $2,100. 

Medical Assistant Education and Training

  • To become a MA, you must complete training and graduate from an accredited institution.  After that, you must pass the Certified Medical Assistant exam. The duration of MA programs varies from 9 months to 2 years. The cost of accredited MA programs ranges from $1,000 to $3,000. You can also pursue a degree instead of a certificate program.

PCT vs MA: Career Outlook

Patient Care Technician Career Outlook

  • PCT jobs are in high demand in the US, with a projected 12% growth from 2018 to 2028. The average salary for a PCT is $32,806 per year, but experienced PCTs can earn up to $42,000 annually. 

Medical Assistant Career Outlook

  • According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), expect 117,800 new job openings to come in the next few years.MA jobs expect a 16% growth between 2021 and 2031.  They earn an average annual salary of $38,190 annually ($18.36 hourly). The top-paying states for MAs are Washington, D.C., Alaska, California, and Massachusetts. They all offer average annual salaries above $44,000.

Both MAs and Patient Care Technicians PCTs play important roles in the healthcare field, supporting both patients and healthcare professionals. Their absence may lead to increased workloads for others, ultimately impacting patient care negatively. The choice between the two positions largely depends on personal preference. PCTs concentrate on delivering optimal patient care, while MAs perform a range of medical and technical tasks in various ways.

If you are interested in providing direct patient care, being a PCT may be the ideal choice for you. This would allow you to gain valuable hands-on experience and contribute to your healthcare career. On the other hand, if you want to work alongside physicians, an MA position may be more appropriate. An MA program provides cross-training, enabling you to perform a wider range of clinical and administrative duties.

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Written by
Venice Nuyda

Venice Nuyda is a student-support representative at Dreambound. She is responsible for helping students through their training journey in the allied health space. She is passionate about helping others and writing informative articles to aid candidates in advancing their vocational careers.

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