How to Become a Patient Care Technician

Reasons to Become a Patient Care Tech

Many compassionate people like the idea of caring for patients and providing them with treatment and comfort while they are hospitalized or ailing, but the idea of a four-year education is not as desirable. If you don’t have the time or the income to invest in a long-term education as a nurse or doctor, but want involve yourself in the healthcare field, then a new career as a patient care technician may be a better choice.

This career path only takes two years to complete in most cases. Once you are employed, you can continue furthering your education on the side while working if you wish to become a nurse. Many people find that working as a patient care technician helps them afford their final nursing goal. Others are simply happy providing care to patients without added responsibilities.

If you are interested in becoming a patient care technician, take a look at the steps below to help you reach your new career goal.

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Steps to Become a Patient Care Technician

Step 1: Obtain Your High School Degree or GED

Before pursuing a patient care technician program, you must first obtain a high school diploma. If you did not complete high school, you will need to complete your GED or earn an equivalent diploma.

Courses to Take
If you are currently in high school, taking extra biology and physiology course, if available, can help you with your career.

Can Vary By State
The exact education requirements will depend heavily on the state you live in and the type of patient care technician you want to become, so research your requirements carefully and ensure you finish your education appropriately.

Step 2: Complete a Patient Care Technician Program

The next step is to complete a patient care technician program at a vocational school, community college, or technical school. All states have their own requirements, so make sure to choose a program that meets yours.

What You Will Learn
The program will teach you a variety of basics about working in healthcare and caring for patients, including but not limited to, medical laws, physiology, anatomy, medical terminology, safety, pharmacology, and properly managing medical records.

In addition, you will learn actual skills that you will use in clinical settings, including wound care, first aid, CPR, and catheterization.

Real Experience
Most programs will include an internship or clinical that allows you to practice these skills under supervision.

Length of Time
Almost all patient care technician programs will take two years to complete.

Step 3: Get Experience

While you will likely participate in clinicals during your patient care technician program, the more experience you accumulate within a healthcare setting, the better your career outlook will be.

  1. Many people choose to volunteer in healthcare settings, such as hospitals or nursing homes.
  2. Other people work support positions in a healthcare setting until obtaining their certification.

Both are great ways to boost your resume when applying for patient care technician jobs.

Step 4: Pass Your Exam

Certified Patient Care Technician Exam
Once you complete the patient care technician program, you must sit for the Certified Patient Care Technician/Assistant certification exam. This exam certifies that you are qualified to provide patient care and is required in most states.

Improves Your Employment Options
Even if it is not a requirement in your state, showing proof of this certification will make you much more desirable during the hiring process and help you obtain a higher pay tier.

In addition, some states may have other certifications and require you to submit to a full background check before gaining employment.

Step 5: Advancing Your Education

Many people use the patient care technician job role as a stepping stone towards a career as a nurse, or even a doctor.

Working as a PCT is a great way to create a revenue stream that also builds valuable clinical experience in the process. If you wish to pursue another healthcare field, you will find that your work history as a PCT will turn into a valuable asset.

Once you settle into your new position, if you enjoy the healthcare profession, you can start thinking about advancement opportunities that fit your lifestyle and career goals.

Job Duties

What is a Patient Care Technician?

A patient care technician is responsible for helping registered nurses meet the needs of patients and their families by providing patient care as directed. Every facility has its own list of job duties and responsibilities for patient care technicians, depending on whether the technician is working within a specialty or within a hospital or outpatient setting.


Some typical responsibilities include:

  • assisting in procedures and examinations
  • checking height, weight, and vital signs (patients temperature)
  • administering tests such as EKGs
  • administering medications
  • bathing and feeding
  • meeting with family members
  • providing comfort or assistance
  • monitoring food and liquid intake
  • monitoring stool or urine output
  • obtaining specimens
  • taking patients to radiology or other procedures
  • keeping the patient’s care environment clean and sterile, in line with all of the facility’s infection control practices

Location or Setting
As mentioned, the job duties of a patient care technician can vary widely based on the setting in which they are employed and their specific job functions. Patient care technicians can work in a nursing home setting, rehab center, long-term care facility, hospital, ambulatory center, outpatient center, or private practice. In addition, there are many medical specialties, so the specialty offered within their job position will determine their list of job duties.


How Much Can You Make on Average?
Patient care technicians are paid $48,835 per year on average, but the entry-level salary and ending salary can vary greatly based on experience and the number of certifications you have. Patient care technicians who obtain a variety of specialized certifications and have several years of experience can expect a higher salary. Salaries in general can range from $31,205 to $76,427.

Personal Skills

Personality Traits That Are Good for the Job

Strength & Endurance
First of all, before considering a career as a patient care technician, applicants should understand that the work is often strenuous. Most patient care technicians are on their feet for the entire shift and, at times, are responsible for lifting and moving patients.

Therefore, patient care technicians should be in generally good shape and able to lift fifty pounds.

They should also pay attention to proper lifting techniques to ensure their personal safety, as well as the safety of the patients.

Compassion & Good Attitude
Patient care technicians are responsible for working with patients all day, some of which may be in pain, grumpy, or depressed due to their current health situations. Therefore, they need to have excellent interpersonal skills along with a great deal of compassion and empathy.

Problem Solver
They must also have strong problem-solving skills, since they need to think on their feet when a patient has a problem. Every single patient is different and has different needs, so PCTs also need flexiblity and the ablility to adapt quickly.

In addition, you will need to have excellent communication skills, since you will likely be responsible for communicating with both the patient’s family and the nurses who oversee their care. As a patient care technician, it is your job to accurately update the nursing staff so the patient receives appropriate medical treatment.

Career Outlook

The job outlook is good for patient care technicians, with positions opening up as the healthcare industry grows. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates an 8% growth rate over the next decade.

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Get information on Patient Care Technician programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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