What Does a Patient Care Technician Do? (Plus Career Path)
Updated November 15, 2023
There are many roles within the health care industry designed to improve patient care and provide extra assistance to doctors. A patient care technician is a health care professional who provides support to medical staff and helps patients feel comfortable. If you're interested in becoming a health care support staff, consider a career as a patient care technician.
In this article, we explain what a patient care technician is, review their average salary, describe how to become one and offer a patient care technician job description example.
Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
What is a patient care technician?
A patient care technician is a health care professional who supports nurses, doctors and other medical staff in caring for patients during hospital stays or other visits. They play a key role behind the scenes in handling the technicalities necessary to ensure optimum patient comfort and recovery.
Patient care technicians observe, catalog and communicate needs and concerns to medical staff while reporting any changes in status to the patient's care team. Patient care technicians help patients feel comfortable and cared for, which often requires them to provide emotional support and guidance to patients during their hospital stay or clinic visit. Working in this role can even provide the technician with the clinical exposure necessary to become a registered nurse.
What does a patient care technician do?
These are some tasks a patient care technician may complete:
Providing basic patient care, including bathing, grooming and serving meals
Conducting regular patient rounds and meeting with the patient's family members when necessary
Monitoring patients' food and liquid intake, making a note of any irregularities
Communicating observations on patients' conditions to the nurse
Obtaining specimens, conducting tests and recording results
Checking patients' vital signs, such as
blood pressure, heart rate and pulse on a routine basis
Escorting patients to X-rays and other diagnostic imaging procedures
Moving, lifting or repositioning patients with limited mobility
Cleaning and sanitizing patient rooms
Assisting patients with routine activities of daily living
Comforting, nurturing and providing emotional support to patients and their families
Average salary and job outlook
The national average salary of patient care technicians in the United States is $51,458 per year. The candidate's level of education, experience and skills and the position's specific job responsibilities determine their salary. The type of employer and their geographic location can also impact a patient care technician's earning potential. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.
Patient care technician requirements
The necessary education and training to become a patient care technician can depend on the responsibilities of the position. Some basic requirements are standard across the profession, including:
The educational requirements for patient care technicians may vary based on the position and its responsibilities. Those who want to become patient care technicians must complete a state-approved educational program in which they learn the basics of nursing assistance and complete supervised clinical work. These programs are available at technical schools, community colleges and universities.
In many states, patient care technicians must pass the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) exam and a certification exam through the National Healthcareer Association before obtaining a certification from the state. Some employers may also require patient care technicians to pass a pre-employment background check and complete continuing education credits or training while they're employed.
Related: 15 Medical Jobs for College Students
Patient care technicians receive hands-on clinical training as part of their educational program. This training enables individuals to learn basic tasks involved in patient care, including how to properly bathe, feed, transport and lift patients and how to check for vitals and perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Additional training may be necessary, depending on the specific position and employer.
Certifications for patient care technicians depend on the state and the employer's requirements. While many prefer to earn the Certified Patient Care Technician/Assistant (CPCT/A) certification, some patient care technicians may be required to obtain a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification under state regulations. Some employers may also require a certified medication assistant (CMA) certification if the professional plans to administer medication as part of their job duties. Check state and employer requirements to determine the necessary certifications to become a patient care technician in your area.
Patient care technicians learn most of the necessary skills for this position as part of their education program and certification preparation. Becoming an effective patient care technician also requires certain additional skills that they can learn outside of the field. Here are some of the most relevant skills patient care technicians can develop:
Communication: Patient care technicians regularly work directly with patients, making sure that they have a positive experience, and they also have to communicate patient status and changes in health to doctors, nurses and other medical staff. These tasks may require the professional to adapt their communication style to effectively obtain and relay information.
Patience: The routine tasks of feeding, bathing and providing other types of essential care often require high levels of patience, especially if the patient is in pain or is uncooperative. Patient care technicians must have the ability to accurately and effectively perform these tasks regularly.
Compassion: Patient care technicians regularly work with patients who are sick, injured and sometimes elderly. Interacting with and caring for these patients effectively requires compassion and empathy. Compassion is also necessary when addressing patients' families who may be distraught or distracted due to their loved one's ill health.
Physical stamina: A career as a patient care technician can be physically demanding, as these professionals spend much of their workday on their feet, and the job can also require them to lift and move patients. Regular exercise, proper nutrition and adequate sleep can help patient care technicians maintain their own health and improve their endurance and stamina.
Patient care technician work environment
Patient care technicians typically work full-time, but hours vary depending on the facility's shifts. While the majority of them work in state, local and private hospitals, these professionals can also work for:
Nursing care facilities
Assisted living facilities
Home health care providers
Clinics and doctor's offices
Their work can be strenuous and often requires the professional to be on their feet for most, if not all, of their shift. Learning how to properly lift and transport patients can help professionals reduce the risk of injury. Taking steps to stay healthy through adequate sleep, nutrition and exercise can help avoid illness.
How to become a patient care technician
Many of these professionals go through the following steps to pursue a career as a patient care technician:
1. Obtain a high school diploma
Earn a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) credential, focusing on elective courses in communications, science and physical education. While earning your high school diploma, work on improving relevant skills like communication and coordination through clubs and activities that involve working and collaborating with others. Consider volunteering at patient care centers to obtain first-hand experience working as a patient care technician.
2. Pursue a state-approved educational program
The required educational program for patient care technicians depends on the state and employer's requirements. Many vocational and technical schools and community colleges offer programs in which you can learn about human anatomy and physiology, medical terminology and safety. While many patient care technicians work in a wide variety of settings, there are certain specializations you can consider depending on your interests. These include:
Hospital patient care
3. Complete supervised clinical practice
The state-approved educational program offers hands-on experience while completing the clinical practice portion of your educational program, which requires you to provide basic patient care under the supervision of a medical professional. During your supervised clinical practice, you can learn the practical and technical aspects of providing patient care, such as providing CPR, first aid, catheterization and wound care. Take this opportunity to ask your supervisor questions regarding proper techniques and procedures.
4. Earn your certification
After you complete a state-approved educational program and gain the skills and knowledge necessary to become a patient care technician, you pass the certification exams required by your state and employer. You may consider taking a certification preparation course as you study for these tests. Make sure that you check with your state for the necessary certifications.
Related: Learn About Being a Phlebotomist
5. Apply to patient care technician positions
Once you finish the educational program and pass the required certification exams, it's time to start looking for and applying for patient care technician positions. Before you apply, develop a comprehensive resume that clearly describes your education, training, experience and skills in concise language that aligns your qualifications with the expectations of the job role. Some employers and states may also require you to complete a background check as part of your application.
Patient care technician job description example
Here's a job description example for a patient care technician role that can help you better understand how to create one:
Berrytown Community Hospital is looking for an experienced patient care technician (PCT) to work night shifts in our busy ICU. Our PCTs help us meet patient and family needs by providing direct patient care under the supervision of the registered nurse.
The patient care technician assists in examinations and procedures by checking patients' vital signs, heights and weights. They also perform EKGs and other unit-specific duties. This individual is also responsible for maintaining a clean and orderly patient care environment while remaining compliant with all infection control practices.
Our ideal PCT candidate has at least six months of experience providing direct patient care in a hospital environment. CNA certification is required.
Explore more articles
- Learn About Being a Psychologist
- Learn About Being an Accounts Receivable Specialist
- Restaurant Industry Jobs: What Does a Crew Member Do?
- Learn About Being an HR Assistant
- Learn About Being a Shipping Clerk
- Learn About Being an Analyst
- Learn About the Role of a Maintenance Worker (With Duties)
- Learn About Being a Journalist
- Learn About Being a Tax Preparer
- What Does a Technical Writer Do? (Plus How To Become One)
- Learn About Being a Sales Manager
- Learn About Being a Retail Sales Associate