Patient Care Assistant Certification & Certificate Program Info

Learn about education options for aspiring patient care assistants. Get info about the certification and continuing education requirements, as well as coursework, career options and employment outlook statistics.

Essential Information

While certificates for patient care assistants or patient care technicians are beginning to become available, many students interested in this career first enter programs in nurse assisting, which prepare students for certification as certified nurse assistants (CNAs). These programs train individuals to provide basic patient care under the supervision of the medical staff of nursing homes, long-term care facilities or other healthcare facilities. Patient care technician programs are similar, and both program options involve a lot of hands-on, clinical work.

Certificate Programs for Certified Nurse Assistants

Certified nurse assistants programs, or CNA programs, provide the training necessary to pass state board exams and become certified. Students learn to keep patients comfortable, provide basic care and assist registered nurses. Programs typically last a couple of months. A high school diploma or equivalent is recommended and is required for some programs.

Program Coursework

Students learn techniques to assist nurses, such as collecting vital signs, as well as problem solving and communication skills. Programs usually include lectures and clinical experiences. Topics include:

  • Basics of healthcare
  • Fundamental nursing skills
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • CPR training
  • Infection control

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, employment for nursing assistants is expected to grow at a faster-than-average rate between 2010 and 2020. Most of the growth is in response to the growing elderly population and the number of patients entering long-term care facilities. The median salary for nursing assistants was $24,420 in 2012.

Certification and Continuing Education

Upon completion of a certified nursing assistant program, students may take their state board certification exams to become registered CNAs. Once individuals have obtained their CNA certification, they may consider pursuing certificate programs for patient care technicians or programs to become registered nurses as a means to advance their careers. Other opportunities for continuing education might be available through professional organizations, such as the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants or the National Association of Health Care Assistants.

Certificate Programs for Patient Care Technicians

Patient care technician programs build upon the skills employed by CNAs. Students learn the technical, clerical and interpersonal skills necessary to properly assist medical staff in a variety of healthcare settings. Programs length varies depending on the prerequisite skills required.

Educational Prerequisites

Some patient care technician programs are designed for current CNAs. Other are designed for students with no previous training, but take students through basic CNA training first.

Program Coursework

Students participate in classroom study and clinical opportunities. Students might also learn specific skills such as collecting vital signs, phlebotomy and EKG application. Courses might include:

  • Records and information processing
  • Patient care techniques
  • Medical terminology
  • Laboratory procedures
  • Communication

Popular Career Options

Patient care technicians and nursing assistants work for hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, rehabilitation clinics, long-term care facilities and in-home care providers. Aside from patient care technician and certified nursing assistant, job titles might include:

  • Nurse aid
  • Home health aid
  • Geriatric aid
  • Orderly
  • Hospice assistant
  • Patient care assistant
  • Nursing assistant
  • Personal care assistant
  • Resident assistant

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