Want to become a certified patient care technician? PCT is an umbrella term encompassing various patient care tasks like drawing blood, checking vital signs, blood sample testing, obtaining patients’ health history, and much more.
It’s a variable job with a huge scope. You can be an entry-level PCT or advance further and take up a high-paying PCT job requiring more enhanced skills. You can specialize in a particular technician field through extra training and certification courses.
How Long Will It Take to Become a Certified PCT?
The aspirant has to complete 600 hours of training to become a certified patient care technician. Most PCT courses take about six months to a year to provide 600 hours of training. However, with Careers Unlimited, you can complete the necessary training hours within five months (20 weeks) along with proper on-field clinical experience.
You can start searching for jobs after that and become a PCT within six months.
Minimum educational requirement to become a certified patient care technician
Before taking a PCT course, the candidate must fulfill the minimum educational requirement. The minimum qualification for a PCT course requires a high school degree or GED. You should be at least 17 years old.
Other requirements to enroll in a patient care technician course vary depending on the PCT program. Some of the requirements include:
- Passing a criminal background check
- Passing the Ability to Benefit Test
- Passing the employee misconduct registry test (EMR)
- Passing the drug screening test
Once all these requirements are fulfilled, you can enroll in a certified patient care specialist course.
Here are the next steps to becoming a certified patient care specialist:
After fulfilling the eligibility requirement, it’s time to enroll in the PCT course. Completing PCT training from one of the recognized training programs is one of the pathways to being eligible for CPTC/A (Certified Patient Care Technician/Assistant) certification. This course lasts for about six months to a year.
The course has theoretical instruction classes introducing aspirants to basic patient care tasks. The course classes also cover knowledge and skills related to basic medical terminology. It covers everything to help you become a responsible, job-ready patient care technician.
The PCT training involves classroom training sessions and provides clinical experience.
Clinical experience is the hands-on experience that will allow you to refine your skills in real-life settings. All the theoretical knowledge is put into practice during these clinical experience sessions. You will be required to perform all the patient care tasks, like taking vitals, obtaining EKG readings, giving emotional support to the patient, sterilizing equipment, and more, as you would after being a certified PCT.
The next step is to sit for a PCT certification exam. This certification exam will vary depending on your state and location. The two organizations responsible for conducting the PCT certification exam are the National Healthcare Association (NHA) and the National Centre for Competency Testing (NCCT).
However, the NHA is the largest certification agency. To apply for a CPCT/A certification exam:
- You need to create your free account on the NHA portal. After creating the account, fill out the exam application for the CPCT/A exam and submit it.
- Now, choose your preferred date of the exam and the preferred exam center (offline or online).
- Next, pay the required exam fee.
Preparing for certification
You can find a lot of CPCT/A preparation material on the NHA website. You can also get free access to study material if you select your school, training center, or employer when creating the NHA account. You need to choose your training center (Careers Unlimited) in the organization type to qualify for free exam material or discounts.
The CPCT/A certification exam contains 100 questions. The exam results are posted to your NHA account two days after you appear for the exam.
Maintenance of the certificate
Once you pass the exam and attain the certification for CPCT/A, you can start searching for jobs. But the tasks don’t end here. You also have to work towards keeping your CPCT/A certification valid. This is what we call the maintenance of certification.
The recertification period for a CPCT/A is two years. This means you need to renew your certificate to keep it valid. One of the ways to renew your NHA CPCT/A certificate is by completing the Continuing Education (CE) credits.
Here is the process involved:
- Collect 10 CE credits
You can keep your NHA certification valid by collecting 10 CE credits every two years. Other certification organizations would have their own requirements.
These CE credits are collected by taking continuing education exams. You can get help from the CE library to prepare for these exams. For a NHA certification, it is easy to apply for such exams through your NHA account. NHA also accepts CE from other sources to renew your NHA certification.
- Renew certification
If you complete 10 CE credits within two years, your certification will be renewed automatically after the expiration. If you renew your certification after the expiration date but within one year, you will need 15 CE credits to renew your CPCT/A certification.
On the other hand, if you did not renew your certification even after one year of expiration, you must retake your NHA CPCT/A certification exam to renew it.
- Pay the renewal fees
Renewing your NHA certification isn’t free. If you renew it on time, the renewal fee is $179. If you renew it after two years but within one year of expiration, the renewal fee currently is $367.50 (2023 figures).
Further opportunities for PCT assistants
If you are a PCT assistant, you can advance your career further to become:
- Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)
- Pharmacy Technician (CPhT)
- Phlebotomy Technician (CPT)
- EKG Technician (CET)
You can even obtain more than one NHA certification at a time. This opens multiple doors of opportunity in the medical field. You can also choose to specialize in a particular field.
Some people also choose to work as patient care technicians while pursuing specializations in other medical fields. Being a PCT also opens doors to other nursing jobs like registered nurse, assistant nurse, and more.
After you have obtained the desired educational qualification, it takes about six months to become a certified patient care technician. If you complete your PCT training within five months and then get certification within another month, you can start finding jobs and become a Certified Patient Care Technician in less than a year.
However, giving your all during training classes and in a clinical setting is important. Prepare for the certification diligently, build a strong network, and get employed immediately. Contact Careers Unlimited to learn more.