Patient care technicians are employed by hospitals, long-term care facilities, doctors' offices, nursing homes, labs and clinics. They must have advanced knowledge of basic nursing skills and be cross-trained in a variety of medical procedures. Most patient care technician programs require students to have a nursing assistant certificate.
Patient care technicians must be prepared to observe and report any changes in a patient's condition, perform basic nursing duties and assist patients with tasks they cannot do for themselves. Aspiring patient care technicians should be familiar with medical terminology and have a basic understanding of CPR and first aid procedures.
Offered by community colleges, vocational schools and technical institutions, patient care programs prepare individuals for entry-level positions in the healthcare industry. They may last 5 weeks to one year.
Certificate Programs in Patient Care
Patient care certificate programs include lectures, practical exercises in medical laboratories and real-world experiences through off-campus clinical practice. Students learn to perform clinical procedures such as blood collection, catheterization, recording of vital signs and coordination of patient treatments. Other topics covered include patient safety, mental health issues, communication and respiratory care procedures. Required coursework typically includes:
- Electrocardiogram (EKG)
- Glucose monitoring
- Patient care skills
- Advanced CPR
Popular Career Options
The hands-on clinical experience gained during a patient care training program is typically sufficient to gain entry-level employment as a patient care technician. Most entry-level positions provide on-the-job training as well as concentrated experience in specialty areas such dialysis or phlebotomy. Some employers, particularly large medical organizations and private physician practices, prefer to hire individuals with at least one year of experience.
The specialized training and knowledge provided by patient care programs can be used as a stepping stone to more advanced medical careers. CPCTs can advance their careers by enrolling in programs for registered nurses or medical assistants.
Job Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nursing assistants and orderlies have a faster than average projected job growth rate of 17% from 2014-2024. As of May 2015, orderlies had an average annual salary of $27,580, whereas nursing assistants had an average annual salary of $26,820.
Continuing Education Information
After completing an accredited patient care technician program, graduates are eligible to take the national certification exam, which is administered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA), to become Certified Patient Care Technicians (CPCTs). In order to maintain their certification status, CPCTs are expected to complete a minimum of five continuing education credits on an annual basis. Continuing education credits can be completed through self-study courses offered by the NHA or through courses and seminars offered by other healthcare organizations and colleges.
Patient care training programs verse students in the various clinical procedures needed to assist healthcare professionals. After graduating, students must take a certification exam before entering the field.