How Can I Get a Patient Care Certification?

Training for patient care certification is available through trade schools, colleges, medical facilities and healthcare organizations. In the past, untrained patient caregivers were taught on the job, but now, because of the complex, demanding and challenging nature of the healthcare industry (and budget cuts that are trimming nursing staffs), certified patient caregivers are sought after. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Defining Certified Patient Care

A certified patient care technician (PCT) is the vital link between a patient and a medical staff or facility. Working alongside nurses, doctors and other trained and licensed professionals, the PCT is the person who has the closest and most consistent contact with patients for both routine and special needs.

PCTs usually work in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities or clinics. Depending on the level of training and types of certifications earned, responsibilities range from assisting with personal care and nutrition to the closely supervised administration of medications, EKGs, CPR and first aid. Additional duties might include monitoring vital signs, drawing blood, running tests and assisting with medical examinations and procedures.

Acquiring Certifications

For most certification programs, a high school diploma or the equivalent is required; for some, an associate's degree is needed. Other qualifications vary by state and the level of certification in which you're interested. Training is available in-person or online. Following are the most common patient care certification programs and the career options for which they might prepare you.

Certified Patient Care Technician/Associate/Nurse Technician (CPCT/CPCA/CNT)

To qualify for this certification, students are trained in and sit for an exam in the basics of patient care as well as the more complex areas of doctor- and nurse-directed medical treatment. The multi-disciplinary program, governed by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA), includes studies in support services to doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals and the PCT's duties to follow-through with patients.

Practical and classroom training prepares you to follow up on instructions for a patient's daily care and needs such as mobility, grooming, nutrition and exercise. You would also be trained to check vital signs, record histories, prepare patients for procedures and assist doctors and nurses with examinations and treatments. The length and breadth of study for this program may vary, depending on the state, school or organization issuing the certification, and some programs may include study toward an associate's degree. To ensure that patient care professionals stay current with ongoing changes in the field and maintain a high level of competency, the NHA requires recertification every two years.

Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)

Training is in laboratory, clinical and administrative procedures. It also includes measuring patients' vital signs, giving them injections and interviewing them.

Certified EKG Technician (CET)

Training is in the use of the equipment that records electromotive activities in a patient's heart. You also learn how to perform related testing and monitoring that allows you to provide final tests for physician analysis.

Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT)

Prospective CPTs train in the process of drawing blood for analyses, donations or various other medical reasons. Instruction includes patient interviewing, vital sign measurement, some types of testing and analysis, equipment assembly and container disposal.

Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA)

To qualify for patient care work in a nursing home, you need this federally regulated certification. Certification requires 75 hours of state-approved training and successful competency evaluation. Since requirements for each state vary, you'll want to check with your state board to ensure that you meet all requirements for your certification.

Getting More Information

For additional details about certifications and more specialized areas of the patient care profession, these organizations may be helpful:

  • National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
  • American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA)
  • National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT)
  • American Medical Technologists (AMT)
  • Board of Nephrology Examiners Nursing and Technology (BONENT)

Looking Ahead

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the need for multi-disciplinary patient care technicians in all types of health care facilities was expected to increase (www.bls.gov). The BLS projected a growth rate of 21% between 2012 and 2022 for orderlies and nursing assistants, with most job opportunities in nursing and residential facilities. Home health care will also be a growing field, according to the BLS.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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