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You’re here because you want clinical experience and are thinking about becoming a patient care technician.
I’m going to share each step I took (from the training to getting hired) to become a patient care technician, and how you can too!
After scribing for nearly two years, I wanted to further pursue my interest in medicine and work with patients. I resigned and enrolled in a 6-week long accredited nursing assistant program.
Becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) would allow me to care for patients and get REAL clinical experience, which is exactly what I did.
Become a Patient Care Technician
I researched a ton of programs in my area determined to find the right program for me. However, I found many of the programs to be too long or too expensive.
I searched for about a month and finally came across an accredited program in my price range and time frame.
For almost two months every Monday through Thursday, I would drive 30-minutes to attend four hours of training.
The first half of the program was classroom-based where we had lectures and tests. The second half was the clinical skills portion and patient simulation training.
It took me about 7 weeks to complete and graduate from the program.
Getting State Certified
When I graduated from the program, I had to go through a somewhat tedious process to get certified. I applied for the Florida Nurse Aide Exam via the FL Department of Health/Board of Nursing and Prometric.
It felt like forever waiting for my application to be approved. Several weeks passed and I received my testing date!
I didn’t choose when I wanted to take the exam because they schedule your test date FOR you. If you need to reschedule, you can expect to be delayed another couple of weeks in the process.
On test day, I went to the Prometric testing center and took the CNA state exam.
There’s a written portion, which is done on a computer (multiple choice).
And there’s a skills portion, which is performed in front of two experienced RNs/CNAs. This was extremely nerve-racking!
I failed the clinical portion of the exam and was so upset. It was over something so silly! But nonetheless, important.
I missed a few important days of training that I wish I hadn’t because patient simulation is such a crucial part of the learning process.
You can read and watch as many videos as you want but the best way to grasp these skills is in a safe, true-to-life environment. There are over 20+ skills you need to know as a CNA.
I recommend checking out the 4YourCNA YouTube Channel to get an idea of some of the tasks you’ll be doing as a Certified Nursing Assistant.
I waited a few weeks to retake the exam, and passed! YAY! Since I already passed the written portion of the exam, I only had to do the clinical skills part.
Finally, I was officially a Certified Nursing Assistant and could now look for jobs to become a patient care technician!
- Your First Shift as a New Patient Care Technician
- 10 Premed Jobs That Will Get You Valuable Clinical Experience
Applying to PCT Jobs
With a CNA certification, you can work in a nursing home, outpatient clinic, or hospital. I wanted to work in a hospital, however, there were only a few positions I qualified for.
In South Florida, many patient care technician positions in a hospital require you to have your phlebotomy certification as well as CNA.
I actually did a phlebotomy course while waiting to be scheduled for the CNA exam but never got certified through the state.
Anyway, I found job listings on Indeed that I qualified for. There were only a few patient care technician positions that required only my CNA and BLS.
I then prepared my resume with my CNA License # and a cover letter.
Your cover letter should state your intent, future goals, and why you’d be a good fit for the job based on your previous experiences and skills.
The hospital where I wanted to work called me to set up an interview. I was so stoked! The position I interviewed for was on the oncology unit, and I got hired on the spot!
Officially a PCT
Although I didn’t have any prior patient care experience, I’m almost certain my cover letter and experience as a scribe got me noticed.
During the interview I was asked about abnormal vital signs, prioritizing certain tasks, and what I would do in scenario situations.
I showed my hunger for learning and displayed professionalism. The combination of my cover letter, professionalism, and killing the interview is what helped me secure this position on the spot.
Before I began orientation I had to take a math placement test, get vaccinated, drug tested, fill out a bunch of documents, and get evaluated on my physical abilities to ensure I was able to meet the physical demands required for the job.
Finally, it’s training time! I trained for 2 weeks outside the hospital learning more about activities of daily living, how to take vitals, EKG placement, and how to work the bladder scanner.
I trained on the floor for 2 weeks with a PCT preceptor, which is not long enough in my opinion. There is so much to learn and developing your flow is essential to managing your time.
Obviously, that doesn’t always happen in two weeks!
The Best Decision
Becoming a patient care technician was hands down the best decision I made along my premed journey. Not only did I gain incredible patient care experience but I helped contribute to bettering patients’ lives.
By being part of the healthcare team, you acquire invaluable insight into the roles of different medical professionals and the healthcare system. If you have the opportunity to get patient care experience, DO IT!
Not only will it be great for medical school, but it will also help you determine if working and caring for patients is truly what you want to do. There are SO many great jobs for premeds to gain clinical experience for medical school!
READ THIS blog post to learn about other ways you can get clinical experience.