What is a Patient Care Technician? – A Complete Career Guide

Caring hands

*Are you wondering what is a patient care technician? If yes, you should check out this career guide with everything you should know.

Have you ever considered becoming a patient care technician (PCT)? This is a very popular job these days! “What is a patient care technician,” you’re wondering. We’re going to tell you all about it in this article.

We’ll start by saying, though, that a patient care technician job requires relatively little career-specific education to begin and has a good starting salary of $15-20 per hour. Someone in this role is directly involved in patient care.

If this sounds interesting and worthwhile, keep reading as we tell you more about what we consider one of the best healthcare jobs.

What Is a Patient Care Technician?

The job of a patient care technician is similar to those of people in other healthcare jobs. And the PCT often works closely with those people–including nurses, nursing assistants, and medical assistants.

PCTs generally work in hospitals or nursing homes and assisted living facilities. However, they might also choose to work in departments or centers that specialize in niches such as dialysis services, cancer treatment, stroke recovery or infant care.

A patient care technician job description includes a variety of activities. These employees spend most of their time either helping other professionals or engaged in direct patient care. Typical responsibilities include the following:

  • Bathing patients
  • Helping patients to dress
  • Assisting with patients’ meals, including set-up and help eating if needed
  • Changing the linens as needed
  • Helping to keep equipment and facilities clean
  • Transporting patients to other parts of the facility for tests, etc.
  • Administering patients’ medications
  • Monitoring patients’ vital signs
  • Assisting patients with physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises
  • Generally monitoring patients’ conditions and keeping notes on them
  • Helping to maintain good patient records
  • Showing patients care and compassion

Someone in this role would have a lot of opportunities to interact with others, so they would need to be kind and patient as well as have a pleasant and inviting demeanor. They should be approachable by patients, visitors, and coworkers alike.

Preparation for a Patient Care Technician Job

You can study for a patient care technician job right after graduating from high school or getting a GED. And, even though an associate’s degree is one way to become qualified for the job, it is not the only way. You might want to do it later, though.

Many people interested in becoming patient care technicians enter certificate or diploma programs, which include courses such as Principles of Allied Health, Anatomy & Physiology and Medical Terminology, and Nursing Assistant.

With the addition of several other courses, the certificate/diploma can become an associate’s degree for patient care technician or related healthcare jobs such as Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or, perhaps farther down the road, nursing.

A great part about pursuing an associate’s degree is the broader range of courses taken, which includes subjects such as communication, writing, math, science electives, psychology, and other subjects that could help advance careers.

Most patient care technician programs require a hands-on learning experience too, typically in an actual hospital or other patient care facility. Not only does this provide the necessary experience, but it also allows them to confirm their career choice.

Employment Outlook for Patient Care Technicians

As of May 2018, the median salary for nursing assistant types of positions was $28,530 and hourly pay for a PCT was $13.56.

Employment for patient care technicians is expected to grow by 11 percent through 2026. And of the subfields for PCTs, dialysis care is the fastest-growing at 8%.

This isn’t surprising, given how the healthcare industry has been changing to create more support roles, especially in areas where direct interaction with and monitoring of patients is critical.

This trend is apparent in traditional hospitals and medical centers, which held 27% of nursing assistant types of jobs in 2018. Surprisingly, skilled nursing facilities held even more, with 38%.

Continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly combined had 11%. And home healthcare services had 5%. The need for eldercare assistants will keep rising as long as the huge Baby Boom generation keeps filling the facilities.

Logically enough, a large number of those either retiring in the next few years or already retired are in nursing and related occupations.

PCT jobs should be plentiful in the coming years.

The Role of a Patient Care Technician from a Patient’s Perspective

Both hospital patients and the elderly can feel lonely and vulnerable when their health is at risk or they’re recovering from something debilitating such as surgery or a serious illness.

Patients seldom see doctors, much less their own doctors. And nurses’ time is increasingly taken up with administrative responsibilities as well as the urgent needs of critically ill patients.

A visit from a patient care technician or someone in a similar role is more welcome than that caregiver probably realizes. Even a brief conversation can make a huge difference.

For example, having a PCT come into the room and offer to wash the patient’s hair might seem like a very simple gesture, almost perfunctory. But imagine the relief and gratitude felt by the patient, who has been waiting for such an offer.

Simply feeling better about her appearance and herself overall after days of feeling uncomfortable, accumulating grime, and being unable to wash it off can be one step on the road to recovery.

Yet, research shows that the relationship between those who provide health care and the patients they treat has been eroding, an erosion of compassion specifically.

One survey actually found that nearly half of Americans believe the U.S. health-care system and health-are providers are not compassionate. PCTs can make a difference here!

Be Part of the Caregiving Team

Healthcare is a complex institution–and becoming more so every day. Unlike the days of the benevolent family doctor, today’s patients are more likely to be working with healthcare teams.

What is a patient care technician’s role in these teams?

Without PCTs and similar support roles in the medical field, doctors, nurses, and other professionals would find their jobs far more challenging than they already are.

So those considering work as patient care technicians should definitely look farther into the possibility.

And if you find reading articles like this dealing with science and medicine interesting, keep checking our blog for upcoming articles in these areas.

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