Learn some of the fundamentals about this essential healthcare role
Have you considered becoming a Patient Care Technician? Making a career transition to a healthcare role such as this first requires finding out some details about the profession, such as what training would be involved as well as the outlook for this field. Once you have more information, you’ll be in a better position to decide whether the PCT role is something you’d like to pursue.
At the Harris Casel Institute, we often get questions about this role from prospective students, and here we share our answers, as a resource. This can be a good starting place for your research.
Where does a Patient Care Technician work?
This role works alongside doctors and nurses in several healthcare environments. These include nursing homes, hospitals, long-term residential care facilities, hospices, and Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals. Some PCTs also work in individuals’ private homes, providing one-on-one care. Most PCTs must wear scrubs or a uniform, which a facility either provides or expects you to buy your own.
What types of jobs can Patient Care Technicians do?
There are several different jobs that PCTs can do, and these might include:
- Patient Care Assistant or Patient Care Associate
- Certified Nursing Assistant, Nurses’ Assistant, or Health Care Assistant
- Nurses’ Aide or Certified Nurses Aide (CNA)
- CNA Clinical Support Associate
- Hospital Attendant
- Nurse Technician
Many of the jobs for PCTs involve working with the elderly or other patients who may need to live in nursing facilities for many weeks or months. This can provide PCTs with the potentially gratifying opportunity to get to know their patients well over time, and develop close relationships with them.
What are typical daily tasks for a Patient Care Technician?
This healthcare role can have an array of responsibilities and play different roles in caring for patients. Daily tasks might include:
- assisting with basic patient needs, such as moving from a bed to a chair
- taking vital signs
- collecting blood specimens
- administering an electrocardiogram (EKG)
- helping to ensure that patients are comfortable and at ease
It usually requires being very active on the job and on your feet most of the day, so it is necessary to be physically fit to assist patients with their needs.
How many hours does a Patient Care Technician work?
The hours and schedules for a specific PCT role will depend on the employer. PCTs usually work full-time, and those who work in hospitals tend to work work 12-hour shifts. Depending on your position, you may need to work some evening hours and/or weekend shifts.
How is a Patient Care Technician role different from that of a Nursing Assistant?
In both careers, you would focus on the needs of patients, with whom you’d have direct contact. Training programs for both careers are likely to follow the same basic nursing assistant curriculum. However, those training to be a PCT would go on to get additional training in specific areas, such as basic first aid, phlebotomy, EKGs, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The additional PCT training can help you to be eligible for several different jobs in the field.
What makes a good Patient Care Technician?
If you like to take care of others, this might be a wise career choice. Effective PCTs demonstrate a lot of patience and compassion for people who need care due to physical needs and limitations. If you find you’re naturally attentive to the needs of others, and like the idea of offering help and hands-on assistance to patients, then this is a career to consider.
Effective PCTs are attentive listeners, who tune in to the needs of their patients. They are also good communicators, so they can interact effectively with other nursing and medical staff. Generally, PCTs do well when they are committed to helping meet the broader goals of a healthcare team.
What is the job outlook for Patient Care Technicians?
Check out the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook for information about projections for this field, especially under the section called “nursing assistants and orderlies.” It provides a sense of the extent to which the field will grow in future years. Currently the handbook projects that “Employment of nursing assistants is projected to grow 11 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.”
The handbook also suggests that, “As the baby-boom population ages, nursing assistants and orderlies will be needed to assist and care for elderly patients in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes… More nursing assistants will be needed to care for patients with [dementia, heart disease, and diabetes].”
What kind of salary do Patient Care Technicians earn?
There are several factors that can affect the wages of PCTs. You may earn more or less depending on your years of experience and skill level, as well as where you’re located geographically. If you’re just starting out, you will probably earn less than those who have more experience. But over time, your earnings will increase if you perform successfully at your job.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook is also a good source for the details on the annual median wage for several related positions (such as orderlies and nursing assistants).
If helping patients in this capacity appeals to you, why not learn more? Maybe you’re ready to take the first step toward a gratifying new career as a Patient Care Technician. At the Harris Casel Institute, we’re eager to work with you to determine whether this career choice could be a good fit for you. Best of luck whatever you decide!
This article is part of the Harris Casel Institute’s weekly blog. We offer several career training programs at our campus in Melbourne, FL. We invite you to contact us online for more information, or to call 1-321-676-4066 to speak with a representative of our Admission Department, who can answer any questions you might have. We look forward to hearing from you!