Both certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and patient care technicians (PCTs) are vital members of health care teams. They provide basic care to patients, monitor patient conditions and report changes to nurses.

Although both titles are often used interchangeably, it’s important to recognize these professions aren’t the same. In general, certified nursing assistants are responsible for helping patients perform everyday tasks, while patient care technicians may have more specialized duties.

If you’re thinking about pursuing either of these roles, it’s important to know their responsibilities and educational requirements differ so you can make an informed decision.

What Is a CNA?

A CNA is a certified nurse assistant who provides basic care to patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities. CNAs help patients with bathing, dressing, and personal hygiene. Other responsibilities typically include feeding and bathing patients as well as monitoring patient vitals. They may also provide emotional support to patients and their families and record patient symptoms and progress.

Additional duties of a CNA may include:

  • Transporting patients across wards and facilities
  • Answering patient call bells
  • Changing bandages or dressings
  • Cleaning and disinfecting patient rooms
  • Entering billing information into computer software

What Is a PCT?

A PCT is a patient care technician who provides basic care to patients in a hospital setting. PCTs may work with patients who are recovering from surgery, those who are receiving treatment for a serious illness or those who are receiving palliative care. PCTs may also work with patients who are preparing to be discharged from the hospital. Typical duties of a PCT include taking vital signs, recording patient information and preparing and administering medication.

Additional duties of a PTA may include:

  • Performing more advanced procedures like inserting catheters and removing stiches
  • Drawing blood
  • Inserting IVs
  • Administering first aid
  • Performing CPR
  • Gathering specimens for diagnostic tests
  • Performing electrocardiograms (EKGs)

How Do CNAs and PCTs Differ?

Although there’s some overlap between the two professions, there’s also a great deal of differences between a CNA and a PCT in terms of job duties and levels of patient care responsibility.

CNAs typically have more patient contact than PCTs and may also be responsible for more clinical tasks such as taking vital signs and recording patient information. PCTs typically work more with medical equipment and may also be trained to perform more complex tasks like drawing blood, administering EKGs or operating dialysis equipment.

CNA Salary and Job Outlook

The median annual salary for a CNA is $42,163, but salaries can vary greatly depending on the state or region in which they work. CNAs in Missouri earn a median salary of $42,564.

The job outlook for CNAs is also positive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of positions for CNAs will grow by five percent between 2021 and 2031, meaning there will be plenty of opportunities for CNAs in the years to come.

PCT Salary and Job Outlook

The average salary for a Patient Care Technician is $49,877. However, salaries can vary depending on the level of experience and education you have. The median salary of a Missouri-based PCT is $50,360.

The job outlook for Patient Care Technicians is good, with employment expected to grow by 18 percent over the next ten years. This is much faster than the average for all occupations.

Tips for Choosing Between a CNA and a PCT

Whether you pursue a career as a CNA or a PCT should depend on your specific situation and goals. Some factors to consider when choosing between CNA and PCT include:

  • The level and nature of care you are comfortable providing: CNAs typically provide more hands-on care than PCTs, assisting patients with activities of daily living (such as bathing, dressing, and grooming) and providing basic medical care. PCTs may provide some hands-on care, but their primary focus is usually on tasks such as administering procedures and maintaining patient records.
  • The level of training you want to undergo: PCTs typically undergo more comprehensive and challenging programs compared to CNAs.
  • The setting in which you want to work: CNAs are more likely to find employment in nursing homes and hospitals, while PCTs are more likely to find employment in clinics and doctor’s offices.
  • The salary you are hoping to earn: CNAs typically earn less than PCTs.

Are You Ready to Embark on Your Healthcare Career Journey?

Whether you’re inclined to become a CNA or a PCT, earning a Patient Care Technician Diploma from the fully accredited St. Louis College of Health Careers will equip you with the knowledge and hands-on skills needed to work in both roles.

Candidates interested in becoming a licensed practical nurse are encouraged to apply for our four semester Practical Nursing program.

To learn more about how SLCHC can help you pursue a rewarding career in the healthcare field, call 866-529-2070.

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