How Do I Become a Patient Care Technician?

A. Rohlandt

The first step to become a patient care technician (PCT) is to get a high school diploma or General Education Degree (GED). You should then complete a PCT course to learn the skills you'll need to work in the field. Depending on where you live or plan to work, you may also need certification through an organization such as the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). If you are US-based, certification requirements may vary from state to state, so it's best to check before entering training.

A patient care technician has the most direct contact with patients.
A patient care technician has the most direct contact with patients.

To become a patient care technician you should have finished high school or have a GED. Experts suggest taking subjects such as biology, science, and mathematics, but it's not essential. You may be able to apply for provisional certification up to one year before graduation if you attend an accredited school or take part in an approved GED program.

A patient care technician will need to pass a written exam.
A patient care technician will need to pass a written exam.

The next step to become a patient care technician is to enroll for a PCT course. The duration of study differs depending on the subjects covered, but a PCT course can be completed in six months or less. The courses generally include both theory and hands-on instruction, and students are expected to complete a period of practical training or an externship at a medical facility or care center. Most training institutions offer entry level and advanced training. If you find it difficult to attend full-time classes, you may have the option of studying online and may only have to attend classes to complete the practical modules.

Some patient care technicians serve as home health aides.
Some patient care technicians serve as home health aides.

Certification is only required in certain areas, but it's best to take a certification exam, as this will improve your chances of finding employment and may also increase your earning potential. The NHA offers PCT certification, and in order to qualify you need a high school diploma or GED and relevant training or at least one year's work experience. The certification process includes registering with the NHA and then passing a written examination. Certification only lasts for two years, so it's best to renew your certification before it expires. If your certification does expire, you may have to pass the examination again.

Many patient care technicians use the position to begin a career in medicine.
Many patient care technicians use the position to begin a career in medicine.

If you are US based, you should find out what the state requirements are to become a patient care technician. In some states, this profession is not regulated at all, while in others, you have to be certified as a PCT. Some states may also require you to be a Certified Nurse's Assistant (CNA) to enter this line of work.

A patient care technician may assist patients with bathing.
A patient care technician may assist patients with bathing.
Some states require individuals to become a Certified Nurse's Assistant before pursing a career as a patient care technician.
Some states require individuals to become a Certified Nurse's Assistant before pursing a career as a patient care technician.

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