If you have ever been sick or injured, you have probably had the help of a patient care technician. Patient care technicians frequently work in hospitals and other healthcare centers, but not everyone knows exactly what they do.
If you are looking for an entry-level career in the medical field, you might think about becoming a patient care technician.
To help you decide if this career is right for you, this article goes over everything you need to know about patient care technicians, including average salary, how to become one, what exactly they do, and more.
What is a Patient Care Technician?
A patient care technician is someone that helps patients that are sick, injured, or disabled with basic self-care tasks. They can work in a variety of healthcare and assisted living facilities.
Patient care technicians are often confused with certified nursing assistants, even though they are not quite the same. Job responsibilities of patient care technicians can vary by state and where they work, though all patient care technicians focus on serving others.
What Does a Patient Care Technician Do?
A patient care technician helps people with both medical and non-medical tasks. They might help with personal care or errand-type tasks, or work in a healthcare facility doing things like measuring vital signs and drawing blood.
Here are some responsibilities of patient care technicians:
- Assisting with personal hygiene. Patient care technicians may help with things like bathing, hair care, dressing, and even putting on makeup. Patients who are weak or have mobility problems may need assistance reaching up over their head or managing small buttons and zippers.
- Cleaning. While they do not usually do deep cleaning, patient care technicians can do things like decluttering and wiping down countertops. They help keep spaces neat and tidy and help clear up tripping hazards or other safety problems around the living space.
- Running errands. If someone is unable to drive or walk down the street, a patient care technician can take care of small errands like going to the post office or picking up groceries. Many people need the help of a patient care technician to pick up medical supplies or get groceries to their home.
- Cooking meals. A patient care tech can help with basic meal preparation such as making easy meals, warming up soup, or making a sandwich.
- Performing basic first aid. Patient care technicians do not need a lot of medical knowledge, but they should know when to call for help. They can also help with minor things like putting on a bandage on a small cut or applying a warm pack to a sore joint.
- Assisting with transportation. Clients of patient care technicians often need rides to medical appointments or social activities.
- Assisting with daily tasks. Basic tasks around the house can become difficult for someone who is sick, injured, or elderly. Patient care technicians can help with things around the house like feeding an animal, writing a letter, making a phone call, or watering plants.
- Reporting safety concerns. Many clients need the help of a patient care technician as they begin to lose independence. Patient care technicians need to be on the lookout for signs that their clients need a higher level of care and should learn about signs of elder abuse so they can report anything concerning to their employer.
- Providing companionship. One of the most important things patient care technicians do is provide company to their clients. Many patients live alone or do not have family close by, and their interactions with caregivers become an important part of their social lives. Often, patient care technicians and patients form a close, trusting relationship that is extremely rewarding for both sides.
If you’re more interested in working in a hospital or private practice setting, becoming a medical assistant may be a better choice for you. Here at Stepful, we have a 4-month online medical assistant training program that leads to your certification and we help you find a job.
Where Do Patient Care Technicians Work?
Patient care technicians can work anywhere that clients need help with basic tasks. Home care is one of the most common places for a patient care technician to work. Patient care technicians working in home care usually make daily or every other day visits to each client's home.
Patient care technicians also commonly work in assisted living facilities, retirement communities, hospitals, and other long-term care facilities.
PCTs spend most of the day on their feet or driving from place to place. When they are not running errands, cleaning, cooking, or helping with personal care, they spend downtime visiting with their clients.
Skills Required to Be a Patient Care Technician
Working as a patient care technician is demanding and requires a lot of hard work. Some skills you’ll need to work as a patient care technician include:
- Patience. While you will be helping people perform basic care tasks, it is important to allow your clients to have as much independence as possible. This means that you will have to be patient while they button their own shirt or choose their own shoes to wear. Basic tasks can take a long time for someone in need of a patient care technician.
- Compassion. Working in healthcare means you will deal with people who are sick, in pain, or losing mobility. It can be hard for clients to accept help from a patient care technician as they become more dependent on others. You can help people maintain their dignity by providing care with compassion and empathy.
- Strength. Patient care technicians must have the physical strength necessary to help others walk, stand up from a chair, dress themselves, and lift objects and perform home care tasks around the house.
- Critical thinking. Although patient care technicians do not make medical treatment decisions, they do need to have the critical thinking skills to know how to act in an emergency situation.
Patient Care Technician Salaries & Job Outlook
Patient care technician salaries range from about $10 to $19 per hour, or $20,800 to $39,520 per year.
Many patient care technicians go on to more advanced healthcare careers like becoming a registered nurse or physicians assistant.
How to Become a Patient Care Technician
You can become a patient care technician with just a high school diploma or GED and a little bit of training.
Here are the steps required to become a patient care technician:
- Obtain your high school diploma or GED. You must graduate from high school or obtain your GED before becoming a patient care technician. You can get your GED in about 3 months if you study and work hard.
- Get the necessary training & education. Before becoming a patient care technician, you need to know a little bit about basic first aid. You will also need a driver’s license if you plan to work in home health.
- Take your competency exam. Some companies require that you pass a compentancy exam before you can start working as a PCT. The exam will include questions about infection control and what to do in case of an emergency.
- Start your career. After passing your exam, you will be ready to begin a rewarding career as a patient care technician.
Patient Care Technician vs Certified Nursing Assistant vs Medical Assistant
Patient care technicians, certified nursing assistants, and medical assistants are all part of a healthcare team that works to improve the quality of life of patients. However, they do differ in some important ways.
Unlike a patient care technician, a certified nursing assistant must complete a training course and pass a certification exam before they can start working.
Certified medical assistants often have a slightly larger scope of practice than a patient care technician, although both can help with things like measuring vital signs. Some specially trained certified nursing assistants and patient care technicians can place invasive lines like blood and urinary catheters.
Medical assistants are also different from patient care technicians. Medical assistants usually work in doctor’s offices assisting physicians with check-ups and administrative tasks. Medical assistants can draw blood, give vaccinations, and assist with minor procedures. You can learn more about patient care technicians vs medical assistants here.