Patient Care Technician

What Is a Patient Care Technician?

Fel Gonzaga
May 10, 2023

Passionate about helping others? Consider a career as a patient care technician (PCT)! Becoming a PCT is a great opportunity to help others and to get your foot in the door if you are considering a career in nursing. 

What is a patient care technician?

A Patient Care Technician (PCT) is a healthcare professional who provides hands-on care to patients. They perform the duties of a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) but are also trained to perform basic medical duties such as performing EKGs and phlebotomy. A PCT works under the supervision of a registered nurse, medical doctor, or other healthcare provider. The laws of each state determine the extent of responsibility for PCT practice. 

If you’re thinking about which career path to take, read our blog post to learn about the differences between a PCT and a CNA.

What does a PCT do?

As a PCT, you may have specific duties depending on the healthcare setting you’ll be working in. Here are some common job duties and responsibilities that you will be performing as a PCT:

Job Duties and Responsibilities
Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) Assist patients with tasks such as bathing, dressing, grooming, and toileting
Vital Signs Monitor and record patients' vital signs, including blood pressure, temperature, pulse, and respiration
Specimen Collection Collect and label specimens for testing, such as blood, urine, and stool samples
Patient Safety Observe and report any changes in patient's conditions, as well as identify and report any safety hazards in the healthcare environment
Communication Communicate effectively with patients, family members, and healthcare team members to provide appropriate care
Patient Records Document patient care in medical records and maintain the confidentiality of patient information
Patient Transportation Assist with patient transfers and transportation within the healthcare facility
Infection Control Follow infection control protocols to prevent the spread of infection
Emergency Response Respond appropriately in emergency situations and provide basic first aid if necessary

Where do PCTs work?

As a PCT, you can work in a variety of healthcare settings. This includes hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, and other healthcare facilities. Due to the aging population and the growth of the healthcare industry, the demand for PCTs will potentially increase in the coming years.

What are the skills and qualities needed for a PCT?

A PCT is responsible for providing basic care and support to patients in a variety of healthcare settings. In order to excel in this role, you will need certain skills and qualities, which include:

  • Compassion and empathy: As a PCT, you will work closely with patients who may be experiencing pain, discomfort, or anxiety. It's important to be able to connect with patients on a personal level, listen to their concerns, and provide emotional support.
  • Attention to detail: Patient care requires precision and accuracy. PCTs must be able to carefully follow instructions, accurately record patient information, and perform tasks such as taking vital signs and administering medication with great care.
  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills: PCTs work as part of a team that includes doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. Effective communication is critical to ensuring that patients receive the best possible care. PCTs must be able to clearly and respectfully communicate with patients and colleagues.
  • Physical stamina and dexterity: PCTs need physical stamina to stand and move patients and manual dexterity for procedures like IV insertion and catheterization. State regulations vary, with some allowing only catheter and IV removal and others requiring skill training "check-offs" for insertion. Always check your state's rules and regulations.

How do I become a PCT? How long does it take?

The steps to becoming a PCT may vary depending on the specific requirements of the employer or the state you’re in, but here are some general steps you can take:

  1. Obtain a high school diploma or equivalent: A high school diploma or equivalent, such as a GED, is typically a requirement to become a PCT.
  2. Get the essential training and/or requirements. This typically includes learning about basic first aid, and if you intend to work in home health, you may also need to have a valid driver's license.
  3. Complete a PCT training program: Some employers may require the completion of a PCT training program. This may take about 24 - 32 weeks to complete. Depending on the institution, the cost of the training may range from $950 - $5,000. These programs provide you with the skills and knowledge needed to work as a PCT, including basic patient care, medical terminology, and infection control.
  4. Obtain certification: Some employers require a certification  even though it is not always required to become a PCT. The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) offers a certification exam for PCTs. The topics include infection control, patient care, and medical terminology. The exam has two parts: the written and the skill part.

Important note: Certain states require a CNA certification to be a PCT, and some allow you to qualify and sit for the CNA certification exam if you’re currently in a PCT program. Hence, it’s important to check your state’s specific requirements for becoming a PCT. Then, see for yourself if you need to become a CNA so you’ll know how and where to start.

How much does a PCT make?

Once you're on the path to becoming a PCT, you may be wondering how much you can expect to earn. While salaries can vary depending on location and experience, the median annual wage for PCTs falls between $30,000 and $46,000 per year. Many PCT positions also offer benefits such as healthcare, retirement plans, and paid time off.

What is the job outlook for PCTs?

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 5% growth in nursing assistants and orderlies (which includes PCTs) from 2021 to 2031. One driving factor is the aging baby boomer population, who will require more healthcare services in the coming years. There will be plenty of job opportunities for PCTs in the foreseeable future. 

What comes after PCT?

But what about career advancement opportunities? The good news is that you can have many opportunities for career advancement and specialization as a PCT. With additional education and training, you can pursue careers as a registered nurse, medical assistant, or other healthcare professional. Here's a table showing some of the specializations that you can pursue as a PCT:

Phlebotomy Technician Collects and prepares blood and other specimens for testing
Electrocardiograph (EKG) Technician Performs EKG readings to help diagnose and treat heart conditions
Hemodialysis Technician Operates equipment to perform hemodialysis treatments for patients with kidney failure
Certified Medication Technician (CMT) Administers medications under the supervision of a licensed nurse
Patient Care Associate (PCA) Focuses patient comfort and companionship than CNAs or PCTs; are usually homecare assistants that help do basic tasks like cleaning, cooking, and laundry for people who need the help or are homebound

It's important to note that the specific job duties and requirements for each of these specializations may vary depending on the employer and state regulations. Additionally, some specializations may require additional education and training beyond the requirements to become a PCT. 

Final Thoughts

Becoming a PCT can be a fulfilling and rewarding career if you are passionate about providing hands-on patient care. With the right education, training, and skills, you can make a meaningful difference in the lives of patients and their families. If you're interested in pursuing a career as a PCT, research your area's specific requirements and opportunities. Start achieving your career goals with Dreambound, and check out PCT classes near you

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Written by
Fel Gonzaga

Fel is a student support representative who guides enrollees to the right program and answers their queries. She's committed to helping students and takes pride in her work. In her free time, she enjoys sightseeing and hanging out with loved ones.

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