Patient care technicians (PCTs) are among the most in-demand professionals in the health care industry today. Doctors and nurses in a variety of settings rely on PCTs to care for and monitor patients and to communicate with them about patient needs. From busy hospitals to quiet in-home settings, PCTs work in all health care environments and are important to the functioning and operations of medical facilities.
As the health care industry expands you may have considered getting involved and finding a steady and well-paying career doing something more meaningful, like caring for people. A PCT career could be just what you’re looking for, with short training requirements, flexible study and work schedules, a real career helping people, and a job that is always going to be in demand. Learn more about what it means to be a PCT so you can feel confident going forward with this important career decision.
What is a PCT?
A PCT is a Patient Care Technician, a professional who works closely with patients, nurses, and doctors to ensure that all patients are receiving adequate care. PCTs are sometimes called nursing assistants. Much of the work they do is to help nurses help patients. They are likely to report to either a nurse or a doctor and take instructions from these professionals.
What are the responsibilities of a PCT ?
The responsibilities of a PCT may vary depending on the job, but are generally patient-focused:
- Checking patient vital signs, like blood pressure and pulse
- Collecting samples from patients for laboratory testing, such as drawing blood
- Assisting patients with daily activities and hygiene, like bathing, dressing, and brushing teeth
- Monitoring and assisting with meals and making sure patients are eating enough
- Monitoring and delivering medications
- Sterilizing and cleaning patient rooms and equipment
- Transporting patients by wheelchair or gurney
- Listening to and recording the complaints and needs of the patients
- Communicating with nurses and doctors about patient needs
- Determining if patients are comfortable and taking steps to help them if they are not
The Work Environment for Patient Care Technicians
Working in Hospital
One of the great things about a career as a PCT is that you can choose the kind of work environment that best suits you. For instance, a lot of patient care technicians work in hospitals, which can be fast-paced environments that may be exciting for some, and stressful for others.
Working in Doctor’s Office
A doctor’s office is another common setting for PCTs. These positions will be less stressful and more predictable, although for some they may be less exciting.
Working in Nursing Homes
PCTs also work in nursing homes and other types of residential facilities, like assisted living centers, residential homes for treating addiction, or psychiatric facilities and hospitals. Each of these different settings come with unique challenges and benefits, but the different options mean that PCTs get to choose what works best for them.
Working in Typical Home
Another possible environment in which a PCT might work is in a typical home. PCTs may work for a company that offers in-home care for seniors or people with disabilities. This environment is usually calm and slow-paced and allows for a PCT to get to know one or two individuals better, rather than providing care to numerous patients throughout the day.
PCT vs. Medical Assistant
It is important to realize that patient care technicians are not the same as medical assistants. These are two similar career paths, but the responsibilities, duties, and level of training are not exactly the same. A medical assistant typically requires more training and certification. A typical medical assistant program is a two-year associate degree program, while PCT training is typically shorter and results in a diploma or a certificate rather than a degree. Both careers are present in a variety of medical settings and both involve helping patients.
On the job, what sets these two careers apart is the focus on patients and the level of responsibility. Medical assistants, with more training, have greater responsibilities and may perform more procedures without the supervision of a doctor or nurse. They may also do administrative work in a medical office, such as filing and making appointments. PCTs are solely focused on patients and do not do administrative tasks.
What are The Benefits of Being a PCT ?
There are a lot of good reasons to choose a career as a PCT, including the availability of positions and job security. The field of allied health, which includes patient care technicians, is growing rapidly as the health care field grows generally. There are a lot of options for jobs as a trained PCT, from working in hospitals to doctor offices to nursing homes, and in-home settings. PCT training does not take long, typically a year or less. By choosing a career as a PCT you can begin working in health care much sooner than with other, similar careers.
In addition to all these tangible benefits of a career as a PCT there are many others that are not as easy to measure. For instance, many people find this kind of work rewarding. On a daily basis, PCTs actively help people and make them more comfortable. They get patients settled into what can be a scary environment, reassure them, and make sure they have everything they need. PCTs are valuable and needed in most medical settings, both for the doctors and nurses and for the patients.
PCT Training and Certification
Training for a PCT is usually a diploma or certificate program. The first step toward becoming a PCT is to earn a high school diploma or GED. The next step is to enroll in a PCT training program and to pass the coursework to earn a diploma or certificate in patient care technology. Programs for PCTs typically include a combination of classroom and hands-on learning.
Coursework may include classes on subjects like anatomy and physiology, medical ethics, patient care, medical terminology, phlebotomy (drawing blood samples), lab procedures, sanitary practices, physical and occupational therapy, and possibly courses that teach how to do certain procedures like EKGs. A good program for patient care technicians will also include hands-on experience for practice. At Florida Technical College, for instance, PCT students spend at least 160 hours working in an externship for practical, on-the-job work experience.
Certification requirements for a PCT vary by job. Depending on where you apply for a position, you may be required to get certified as a patient care technician or as a nursing assistant. Your training program should prepare you for this and getting certified will only require that you pass an examination to demonstrate that you learned the skills and have the knowledge to perform typical PCT duties.
Career Options for Trained PCTs
With PCT training, and especially if you add certification to your list of accomplishments, you will be able to find a career in a variety of settings. PCTs work as care technicians, nursing assistants, orderlies, phlebotomy technicians, home health aides, and EKG technicians. A PCT education is also a good stepping stone that can lead to more specialized careers. For instance, with a little additional training you could learn to work as a dialysis technician, a radiology technician, a medical assistant, or a surgical assistant.
PCT Salaries and Career Outlook
The career outlook for PCTs is generally very good. The health care field in general has been growing steadily for years and will continue to do so, opening up more positions every year for trained professionals like PCTs. The population is aging, which is a big part of the growing in health care. As health care needs expand, all types of medical facilities are looking for ways to lower the cost of care. That means hiring more trained technicians and assistants.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care careers are growing faster than any other and this field is adding more positions than any other industry. Medical technicians of all types are expected to be among the fastest growing of all health care careers. Current median salaries are around $25,000, but there is a potential to earn more, both with experience as a PCT and by adding additional training and skills.
Patient care technicians that are well-trained, skilled, and good with people are in high demand right now and will continue to be in demand well into the future. Hospitals and other medical facilities need PCTs to take on many of the responsibilities that used to fall under the duties of nurses. To join the health care industry, to enjoy a meaningful career helping people, and to earn a good salary while also having job security, your journey begins with PCT training.
At Florida Technical College you can earn your PCT diploma and start working sooner than you think. You can also earn your diploma while continuing with another job or while taking care of your family. Schedules are flexible and include weekend and evening courses at two different campuses in South and Central Florida. We can also help you with financial aid so that nothing will prevent you from realizing your dream of working in health care.