Patient Care Technician vs. CNA: Understanding the Difference

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Earning your credentials as a patient care technician or a certified nursing assistant (CNA) can lead to a fulfilling entry-level career in the medical field. However, you may feel confused about the differences between the two jobs. “Is a patient care technician the same as a CNA?” is a frequent question we receive at Advanced eClinical Training (ACT). The answer to that question is no, which we will outline in more detail below.

Understanding the Role of a Patient Care Technician

The primary responsibility of a patient care technician is to support patients and their families during a stay in a medical facility while attending to their basic healthcare needs. Here are some other duties that might be assigned to you as a patient care technician:

  • Assist patients with dressing, eating, and hygiene needs
  • Listen to patient concerns and provide them with resources if possible
  • Monitor patients’ vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and pulse rate
  • Transport patients for X-rays and other imaging tests
  • Update other members of the patient’s healthcare team about their condition

Working as a patient care technician requires you to interact with people at some of their most challenging moments. Because of this, it’s important to possess higher-than-average patience and compassion. You should also have the physical stamina necessary to be on your feet for much of your shift.

The average pay for a patient care technician is $18.59 per hour, according to Indeed.com. The same website reports that you can make up to $28.51 per hour with experience. The exciting thing about earning a Patient Care Technician Certification from ACT is that you can remain in that job or use the education and experience you already have towards earning a more advanced degree.

Working as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Like patient care technicians, CNAs assist patients with basic needs and activities of daily living. You may also hear CNAs referred to as a nurse’s aide, patient care assistant, or nursing assistant. Once you become a CNA, you will work under the direct supervision of a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a registered nurse (RN).

Obtaining a certificate in either program is an ideal way to start your career in healthcare. While most people enjoy the work, some discover that direct patient care isn’t for them. In that case, it’s much better to clarify your work preferences after eight weeks of training than spending four years to become a nurse or even longer for more advanced healthcare roles.

The duties of patient care technicians and CNAs overlap considerably. Below are some other tasks you might complete, in addition to those described under the patient care technician section.

  • Clean rooms prior to each patient’s admission
  • Gather supplies for doctors and nurses
  • Reposition or turn patients in bed
  • Stock supplies in patient rooms

The patient care technician certificate is interchangeable with the certified nursing assistant certificate, but not the other way around. People often don’t realize this when they first start researching training options for entry-level work in healthcare. The salary also tends to run lower for this position, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting an average hourly wage of $14.56 in 2021.

Patient Care Technician vs. CNA

Overall, the patient care technician certificate gives you greater flexibility in your career than becoming a CNA. You can work in a hospital with the first type of certificate but not the second. Since you receive more training in patient care technician programs, you are qualified to do certain basic patient care duties like reading an EKG or drawing blood.

While people in both roles work directly with patients and perform similar care duties, patient care technicians have more responsibility. Legally, CNAs can perform only the most basic patient care duties. Patient care technicians can provide additional services to patients and their employers because they have completed more training.

The two roles also share some similarities besides direct patient care duties. For example, both must complete a training program and pass a certification exam in their state before they can begin working.

Enroll Now to Start Training as a Patient Care Technician

ACT is pleased to offer affordable, flexible training for entry-level healthcare careers you can complete at your own pace. The average time it takes to finish a program and sit for the certification exam is eight weeks. Just think, you could be working in your new career two months from now if you enroll and download your course materials today—so what are you waiting for? Enroll now to begin your journey towards becoming a medical professional!

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