The healthcare industry is so vast, with so many career options to choose from. If you are looking for an option to start your healthcare career as soon as possible then Patient Care Technician (PCT) and Certified Nursing Assistant (CAN) are two great career options. As these professions do not require spending many years in schools you can start your professional career as PCT and CNA very soon.
Doctors and nurses work in collaboration with PCTs and CNAs to provide the best care to patients. Now, most people think that the two are the same however there are some differences between the two and their duties may vary from state to state. Continue reading this article to find out about the major differences between these two healthcare professions.
Who is a Patient Care Technician (PCT)?
A patient care technician is responsible for providing basic care and assistance to patients in hospitals and other healthcare settings such as rehabilitation centers, cancer centers, etc. They are comparatively more trained and skilled than the CNAs. In addition to providing care to patients, they can also perform some simple medical procedures. The duties of PCTs are independent however they still need to report to doctors and nurses.
Who is a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)?
A certified nursing assistant is considered to be an entry-level caregiver. They also provide basic care to patients in nursing homes and other healthcare facilities. They help the patients to perform everyday tasks such as bathing, dressing, etc. Most of their time is spent with the patients and they are supposed to observe their progress, provide them the emotional support they need, and report everything to the nurses or supervisors.
CNA vs PCT – Primary Differences between the Two!
Here we shall talk about all the differences between the two professions, their job descriptions, duties, educational requirements, salaries, and more.
Difference Between PCT and CNA
These two terms, PCT and CNA often overlap and there is some confusion about the difference between the two professions. But it should be noted that there is a major difference between the two depending upon their duties and the levels of patient care they provide.
PCTs are more skilled and trained than CNAs and are responsible for performing some specialized tasks as well in addition to providing basic patient care. These specialized tasks include performing ECG, inserting catheters, administering IVs, etc. Whereas CNAs are in contact with the patients much more than the PCTs. Their main task is to provide basic care and comfort to the patient. They are supposed to improve the quality of life of the patients. Their tasks are much simpler than PCTs such as measuring the vital signs, changing the bandages, etc.
PCT AND CNA differ in terms of their duties and responsibilities. The duties of both of them are described here in detail.
Duties of PCT
The following are the duties and responsibilities of a patient care technician:
- The duty of PCT involves administering medications to patients.
- They are authorized to perform advanced procedures such as inserting catheters and removing stitches.
- They can draw blood which is called phlebotomy.
- PCTs can insert IVs.
- They can provide first aid.
- They are trained to perform CPR.
- A PCT is also responsible for collecting specimens for diagnostic testing.
- PCTs are also able to perform ECGs.
Duties of CNA
The following are the duties and responsibilities of a certified nursing assistant:
- They are responsible for measuring patients’ heart rate and blood pressure.
- They monitor patients’ diets and help them to eat.
- CNAs also assist patients while bathing and using the washroom.
- They make sure that the patient is comfortable and help them to move around safely.
- A CNA also helps the patients get dressed and helps them with different exercises.
- They also change the dressings or bandages.
- CNAs are supposed to answer patient call bells.
- Entering billing information is also the task of a CNA.
The basic education requirement is the same for both professions however one has to get specialized training and diploma to be a certified PCT or CNA. The educational requirements for both the professions are mentioned here.
Educational Requirements for PCT
You will need a high school diploma or a general education development (GED) equivalent to enroll in a certified PCT program. First, you need to get a high school diploma with courses like:
- Medical terminology
- Introduction to Healthcare
After getting the high school diploma, you can apply for the Certified Patient Care Technician exam through the National HealthCareer Association’s website. This exam includes 100 questions and passing this exam shows that you can provide basic patient care and qualify as a patient care technician. The questions are related to the following five categories:
- Patient care
- Compliance, safety, and professional responsibility
- Infection Control
Earning a PCT diploma takes longer than getting the certification for nursing assistants. The training of a PCT is more extensive than a CNA. Although different allied healthcare programs take a year to complete you can get a PCT diploma in almost 34 weeks.
Educational Requirements for CNA
The requirements for becoming a certified nursing assistant include passing the GED or getting a high school diploma. After that, you can take the nurse aide license exam by applying through the state agency. Passing this exam will qualify you as a certified nursing assistant. The exam includes written and clinical portions to judge skills such as:
- Hand washing
- Taking and recording patients’ vital signs
- Demonstrating positive interaction with patients
- Daily living activities
- Anatomy and physiology
The CNA training programs are usually 4 to 8 weeks long and becoming a certified nursing assistant is considered to be the quickest way to enter the healthcare profession. If you plan to work in higher-level nursing roles then you will need to get some other certifications which will require more time.
Both professions offer good salary packages however there is a little difference between the income of a PCT and a CNA. Read below to find out about the average annual salaries for both professions.
Salary of PCT
According to Indeed, an average patient care technician earns more than $17 per hour which makes an average salary of $46,000 per year. However, with more experience PCTs can earn higher salaries. A PCT with over 6 years of experience can earn up to $50,898 per year.
Salary of CNA
According to Indeed and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an average certified nursing assistant earns more than $15 per hour which makes an average annual salary of $32,000. More than 10% of highly experienced CNAs can earn up to $45,071 per year.
There are several career options after getting a diploma for PCT and CNA. We have shared here a variety of career options for both professions individually.
Career Options for PCT
There are many career options to choose from after getting a PCT diploma. These include:
- Phlebotomy Technician
- Medical Assistant
- Surgical Technologist
- Dental Assistant
- Medical Billing Specialist
- Sterile Processing Technician
- Surgical Nurse
- Clinical Specialist
- Dialysis Technician
- Intensive Care Nurse
- Home Health Aide
Career Options for CNA
Similarly, with a CNA diploma, there are plenty of career options in different healthcare sectors. These include:
- Licensed practical nurses (LPNs)
- Registered nurses (RNs)
- Healthcare specialists in related fields
- Nursing Home Administrator
- Geriatric Care Manager
- Nurse Educator or Professor
- Nursing Technician
- Nursing Assistant
- Nursing Unit Clerk
- Nursing Attendant
- Nurse Aide Evaluator
Tips for Choosing Between PCT and CNA
Choosing a healthcare career can get confusing with so many options. However, which career you want to pursue depends entirely on your personal preferences, goals, and situations. Here are some important factors to consider before choosing between PCT and CNA.
Firstly, it depends upon how much salary you are hoping to earn. CNAs usually earn less than PCT, so make sure to choose between the two after considering their incomes or salaries.
Healthcare Setting Preference
Make sure you know in which healthcare setting you want to work. CNAs mostly work in nursing homes and hospitals whereas PCTs are likely to work in clinics and doctor’s offices.
PCTs have to go through extensive training as compared to CNAs, make sure you know what level of training you are ready to get.
Level of Care Preference
Before choosing between PCT and CNA, the most important thing to consider is what level and nature of care you are ready to provide to the patient. CNAs provide more hands-on care to the patients such as bathing them and dressing them. Whereas PCTs also provide basic care but their main tasks involve administering procedures and maintaining records.
The Bottom Line
The healthcare industry offers many career options for everyone. The two main entry-level healthcare professions include patient care technician (PCT) and certified nursing assistant (CNA). Many people get confused between the two professions as both of them collaborate with doctors and nurses to provide basic healthcare. But the major difference between the two is that PCTs are authorized and trained to perform some basic medical procedures such as administering the catheter, IVs, and performing ECGs. On the other hand, CNAs are involved in providing more hands-on care to patients such as helping them with their everyday tasks. Both of these professions are extremely important in the healthcare system, make sure to choose the correct profession after reading this article.
Matthew is a Co-Founder at BusinessFinanceArticles.org. Matthew was a floor manager at a local restaurant in Wales. He lost his job after the pandemic and took initiative to make a team and start the project.