A Patient Care Technician Career: Pros and Cons
Patient care technicians provide basic care and assistance to patients, monitoring and taking notes on each patient's care. Read the pros and cons of being a patient care technician to help you decide if this is the right career for you:
|Pros of Being a Patient Care Technician|
|Faster-than-average employment growth (expected 21% between 2012 and 2022)*|
|Can work in various medical settings (including hospitals, nursing homes and physicians' offices)*|
|Allows you to help others feel better*|
|Certificate program sufficient for entry-level positions*|
|Cons of Being a Patient Care Technician|
|Low-to-average wage ($20,000 to $37,000)**|
|May have to work evenings, weekends and holidays*|
|Career advancements may require additional training*|
|May be required to spend long periods standing*|
|Work may include unpleasant tasks such as emptying bedpans*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com.
Essential Career Information
Job Description and Duties
Patient care technicians are medical professionals who provide care to sick and injured individuals. While they may work under the supervision of various medical professionals, they typically work directly under registered nurses. Patient care technicians perform various duties in order to care for patients, including monitoring vital signs, observing patients' behavior, helping patients with their daily bathing and grooming needs, emptying bedpans, collecting specimens and moving them to and from their beds. They also help set up therapeutic equipment and assist doctors and nurses with examinations. In addition to providing basic nursing aide care, patient care technicians perform duties traditionally performed by professionals in other departments, such as EKG, phlebotomy and respiratory.
Job Prospects and Salary
Patient care technicians are also commonly referred to as nursing assistants or aides. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that nursing assistants and orderlies would see an employment growth of 21% between 2012 and 2022. Those with formal training should see the best opportunities, according to the BLS. PayScale.com reported that the annual salaries for patient care technicians ranges from $20,000 to $37,000 as of 2015. Salaries may vary by location and experience.
What Are the Requirements?
Completing a patient care technician or nursing assisting training program qualifies you for employment as a patient care technician. These programs are commonly available at community and technical colleges. You can complete a certificate program in less than a year. Interested candidates should have high school diplomas or equivalent. In addition to submitting to criminal background checks, applicants must show proof of immunizations, physical examinations and drug screenings. The curriculum includes classroom studies and supervised clinical education, which may come in the form of internships or externships. To complete this program, students must complete these learning modules: certified nursing assistant (CNA), phlebotomy, electrocardiogram (EKG), advanced nursing skills and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
What Employers Are Looking for
Most employers are looking for patient care technicians who have completed formal training and have work experience. Patient care technicians spend most of their day caring for sick individuals, so they should possess good communication skills and the ability to work under stressful conditions. In addition to preferring training and experience, employers also tend to look favorably on technicians who are certified in as many areas as possible.
Job Postings from Real Employers
Employers often look for certifications and specialized skills, such as respiratory care, in their employees. Although this is not a true picture of the patient care technician job market as a whole, here are a few job postings from real employers to give you an idea what employers are looking for in their patient care technicians. These postings were open in April 2012:
- A Texas healthcare provider is seeking a patient care technician (PCT) for an entry-level position in a dialysis company. Applicant should have at least one year experience, preferably experience as hemodialysis technician. Certification is required.
- A Missouri hospital is seeking an experienced patient care technician to work the evening shift performing non-licensed patient care. While working in the ER, the candidate is expected to provide care to all ages- from infants to geriatrics. Applicants should have EMT certification or one year experience in patient care and BLS for Healthcare Providers certification. This position requires a rotating of shifts and attending to departmental staff needs.
- An Illinois healthcare provider is seeking an experienced patient care technician to work in a local hospital. The applicant should have experience working in a hospital setting. The employer prefers that the candidate be a graduate of a surgical assistant program with surgical tech certification. This is a per-diem position.
How to Make Your Skills Stand out
Completing the patient care technician program and obtaining work experience can really boost your employment potential. However, another way to enhance your resume and increase your earning potential is through certifications. Certifications demonstrate your commitment and knowledge to potential employers.
Students who complete the patient care technician programs are eligible to take the National Certified Patient Care Technician (NCPCT) examinations through the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT). At least 14 hours of continuing education per year is required to maintain certification. As a patient care technician, you'll also be able to take the NCCT exams to obtain the Phlebotomy (NCPT) and EKG ECC (NCET) credentials. Individuals who have completed the training program or have at least one year experience working in the field are eligible to take the certification exams.
You can also obtain the credential of Certified Patient Care Technician (CPCT) by passing an exam through the American Healthcare Association (AHA). To maintain the AHA certification, you must complete 10 hours of continuing education every two years. You'll also be eligible to obtain certification as a certified nursing assistant (CNA).
Alternative Career Paths
If you're not sure becoming a patient care technician is right for you, whether it's the salary of the duties, there are alternative career paths you can investigate to help you make the right career choice.
Becoming a medical assistant also allows you to help sick and injured patients in a medical setting, but with more variety in your work than a patient care technician. Medical assistants typically perform both clinical and administrative duties. According to the BLS, employment of medical assistants should grow 31% between 2010 and 2020 - a growth even higher than predicted for patient care technicians. The BLS also reported that medical assistants earned annual mean salaries of around $30,000 as of May 2011. You can become a medical assistant through on-the-job training, but many choose to complete a training program. Although not required, you can obtain several certifications as a medical assistant to improve your employment opportunities.
Licensed Practical Nurse
If you'd enjoy working with patients but would prefer more responsibilities and a higher salary, consider a career as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). LPNs provide healthcare to sick and injured individuals in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and home healthcare agencies. You can become an LPN by completing a 1-year program at an approved nursing school. In addition to completing a blended curriculum of classroom work, lab studies and clinical rotations, you'll need to pass an examination to obtain licensure as an LPN. As of May 2011, LPNs earned mean annual salaries of around $42,000, according to the BLS. The BLS also predicted that LPNs would see employment growths of 22% between 2010 and 2020.