CNA to PCT – Easy as 1-2-3!

glovesYou have been roaming the jobs boards and see lots of openings for PCTs in the hospital, but very few CNA jobs listed. So, what exactly is a PCT and how can you get those jobs?

The first thing you have to know is that a PCT (which stands for “Patient Care Tech”) is a CNA.  Yep, that’s right, you are already halfway there if you already have your CNA certification. A PCT is being used more often in acute care clinical settings (hospitals, rehabs, outpatient services, etc.) because they have some advanced training and can perform additional skills, which frees up the nurses to do more nursing-type stuff.

So, what kind of advanced training and additional skills will you need? Maybe none. Some hospitals will hire CNAs and train them on the job to make them into PCTs. This is a great option for those that don’t have the time or money to return to school. But there are downfalls to this route. On the job training is usually done very quickly with little explanation. So, you may learn WHAT you are expected to do, but not WHY it must be done or what might happen if you don’t do it correctly. You may not understand what common abnormalities you might encounter and what you need to report to a nurse. In short, it is basic skills training but not true education so you may feel uncomfortable with your skill level and somewhat insecure.

Another problem with on the job training is that once the employer has invested that much time and money into your training, they won’t want you to leave. You may have to sign a contract agreeing to work at that facility for a specific amount of time. And the institution usually doesn’t award any type of certificate that proves you have received this training, which prevents you from moving to another hospital easily. So you may have knowledge, but no way to prove it.

A second option is to enroll in a PCT course at a local community college or vocational school. There are many programs out there but most are expensive and take many months to complete. Plus, they must include CNA training and certification as part of the curriculum – which you already have. So you may end up paying for classes that you don’t need and a certification that you already have. This delays your ability to work as a PCT and often results in student loans, which can be challenging to pay back on a limited budget.

The third option is the cheapest, fastest and most direct route to a PCT job AND have certificates to prove that you received training! Many hospitals will hire CNAs with EKG and Phlebotomy training as PCTs.

Since you already have your CNA, just two small classes could net you a substantial pay increase. And these classes don’t need to be expensive or take semesters to complete! Many of these classes are offered online, can be completed at your own pace and are not expensive.  (You can try a free demo of these courses HERE)

There is no STATE exam for PCT, like there is for CNA. To further complicate the issue, every work setting (employer) will have different skills that they will require of the PCT.  Most employers will offer on the job skills training after hire to demonstrate how they want these advanced skills done in that setting. For instance, some hospitals will train you to start IVs while others will not allow anyone other than a nurse to start an IV. What they all have in common however, is that you must know how to obtain and read an EKG (to quickly identify problems) and know phlebotomy theory (knowing how to obtain blood requires the same procedures as starting an IV). Both of these subjects are very hard to teach on the job and require much study time to master. Having these two certifications makes you very attractive to employers.

However, there is a national exam through National HealthCareer Association (www.nhanow.com) that you may be eligible to take after program completion as an additional certification to “prove” you have the required knowledge to perform the job. There are other certification agencies for PCT as well, but NHA is the most commonly used. Check with your instructor on whether they will offer a national certification exam, and if so, which certification agency is used. Each certification agency may have an online review course to get you ready for that exam. Remember, this exam is completely optional and NOT required for employment or certification. The CNA exam is the ONLY exam required.

4YourCNA.com is a great resource for additional online certification courses. These courses are inexpensive, self-paced, easy to complete and provide the proper documentation to prospective employers. Their education site is located at www.4YourCNA.org and you can register and pay for courses right online. They even offer FREE demos of each course – this means you can go through up to half the course for FREE – just to make sure it will work for you! No risk, all reward. Head on over now and expand your employment opportunities –  and your paycheck!

Author: Patricia Ramsey, RN

Patricia Ramsey is a Registered Nurse in Florida. She has over 24 years of nursing experience in a wide variety of settings, including home care, physician's office and emergency care clinic, critical care, and nursing home/rehab. Click here to learn more!

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2 Comments

  1. This site is just full of great information!! Thank you for all the time and energy you have put into helping members of our community better themselves! And like Kitty said, for free! :)

  2. I can’t wait to use your free demos to see which courses would be best for me. Thank you for generously sharing so much info….for free!

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