A patient care technician is responsible for providing assistance to doctors, nurses and other support staff while interacting directly with the patient. The patient care technician has the most direct contact with the patient and is a critical member of the health care team. Another name for this job is a patient care assistant or nurse’s aide.
Patient care technicians focus on three main areas of health care: recording vital health information, collecting samples, and assisting patients. All three areas are critical to monitoring the health of the patient, obtaining the correct information to manage the patient’s health and the primary, physical patient care. To become a patient care technician, candidates require a combination of education and experience.
Recording health information includes basic information such as weight, height and vital signs. Vital signs are the key indicators of health and change over time, as a patient's condition improves or deteriorates. These signs include pulse, respiration, blood pressure, temperature and responsiveness. Accurate record keeping is mandatory, as this information is used by doctors and nurses to evaluate the patients health.
Sample collections are required to complete tests ordered by the doctor. Samples taken by patient care technicians include blood, urine, stool, hair, skin and saliva. These samples must be collected according to strict guidelines to avoid contamination with other materials. The quality of test results is based on compliance of sample collection with approved methods.
Assisting patients includes feeding the patient, and filling water and ice containers to ensure the patient is properly hydrated. Mobility issues comprise a large portion of the daily issues. This includes helping patients to turn in bed, transfer from the bed to a wheelchair and back, and assistance with walking. Some patients also require assistance with personal hygiene, such as bathing and dressing.
To become a patient care technician, you must complete a training program from a community or career college. These programs are typically four to twelve weeks in length and cover all the items necessary to complete the tasks of this role. Included in this program is a certificate in first aid.
Work experience is obtained on the job, when employed as a patient care technician. Opportunities for this role exist in hospitals, long-term care facilities, outpatient clinics, and rehabilitation centers. Many people start in this role before returning to school to become a practical nurse. A practical nurse has an increased level of responsibility, a larger skill set and a higher salary.