About Emma Campbell

I am a director at the Phlebotomy Training Institute

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How to Become an EKG Technician

Are you interested in pursuing a career within the medical field? Would you like to earn a comfortable living within this sector without spending an exorbitant amount of time and financial resources to achieve this end? If you answered “yes” to one or both questions, a career as an EKG technician might be the one for you. Without significant barriers to entry and with plenty of opportunities to advance, this rewarding job offers the chance to make a discernable impact in the lives of patients and forms a crucial role within the medical profession.

How to Become an EKG Technician

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Overview of the Role

An EKG technician handles medical equipment which serves to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with cardiovascular problems. The role is also known by the title of cardiographic technician or electrocardiogram technician, as it requires you to operate testing equipment imperative to detecting and managing cardiovascular issues and complications.

EKG technicians typically work in hospitals but may retain employment in physician’s offices, clinics, and laboratories. The role demands a certain amount of physical fortitude. You must stand for long periods of time and often move patients suffering from disabilities to prepare them for the tests. As EKG tests are required day or night, a technician in the field might work a combination of days, nights, and weekends to meet patient demands.

What It Involves

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The daily tasks associated with working as an EKG technician require frequent patient interaction. You must have an affable and pleasing manner in communicating with patients and be able to put them at ease in what could be a quite stressful situation for them. In talking with patients, you will ask questions to put together a detailed medical history, including any relevant cardiovascular issues, and then explain the tests and procedures to follow.

After obtaining the patient’s medical chronology, explaining the upcoming procedures, and answering any initial questions, you will attach electrodes to the chest of the patient and any other areas on the body as required to complete the tests. These electrodes enable the technician to note and record the nature of the patient’s heart rate and blood pressure, detecting any irregularities.

Most of the time, EKG tests are performed on patients while they lie in bed. However, other procedures, such as stress tests, require the patient to walk on a treadmill in order for the technician to measure cardiovascular function. The treadmill’s speed is gradually heightened, allowing the technician to see how the heart responds to these increased endeavors.

If the patient’s heart rate or function reveals abnormalities during any of these tests, this might show that cardiovascular disease or malfunction is present. The final step for the EKG technician is to note all the patient’s results, including any detected abnormalities, so these can be prepared in hard copy form for the doctor to read and determine a course of action.

Education and Training Requirements

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To find employment as an EKG technician, you must first have graduated with your high school diploma. If you are still in high school and interested in a career within this field, you might wish to take additional courses in math and science, including physiology and anatomy.

There are several educational programs available if you want to become trained as an EKG technician, some of which only take two months to complete. Classes cover a host of topics, including physiology, cardiac anatomy, medical terms, heart disease, pacemakers, and ethics. Students are trained regarding how to use, operate, and maintain all associated EKG technology and equipment, including how to apply electrodes and read results from patients. A number of educational programs also include coursework in phlebotomy and training in operating Holt monitors for lengthier EKG tests.

After Graduation

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Once you have graduated from an accredited educational program, you may take a state or national exam to become a certified professional. This is not necessarily required, but it is highly preferred by employers and will provide you with greater opportunities for career latitude. The Cardiovascular Credentialing International Association proctors such an exam, with successful trainees earning the designation of Certified Cardiograph Technician.

If you have graduated from an accredited EKG technician educational program or have no less than 6 months on-the-job experience under your belt, you may take the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians’ Electrocardiograph Technician exam. This is another certification that is highly respected by employers and will afford you greater career potential in the future.

Other Training

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If you would like to increase your competitive edge as an EKG technician, you might wish to consider obtaining additional experience in the medical field prior to entering this job role. Working as an EMT, paramedic, or nurse can afford you with a more wide ranging skill set and knowledge base than you might otherwise have by jumping head first into the role of EKG technician.

With that being said, completing an accredited educational program, getting certified, and securing additional training will also serve you well should you wish to make a career within this field. Should you undergo additional education, you might consider an 18- to 24-month course of study that will teach you how to perform complicated EKG tests, operate Holt monitoring equipment, and perform stress tests.

This course of study is usually completed while on the job and necessitates further education in key concepts like cardiovascular anatomy and physiology. In short, the more education and experience you gain, the better your job and earning prospects will be.

How Much Does an EKG Technician Make?

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Contributing Factors

Ultimately, the salary of an EKG technician is affected by a number of key factors. If you have been working within the field for a number of years already, went the extra mile to become educated and certified, and received additional on-the-job training experience, your earning potential will be on the higher end of the spectrum.

If you graduated from high school only and did not opt to complete a relevant educational program or certification, your salary will probably be far lower. You can still earn a comfortable living with this background, but you will not have the same opportunities for advancement and salary increases as you would with the preferred education and training.

Your location and employer also makes a difference regarding the salary you can hope to earn. Salaries in the coastal cities might be higher than those in the heartland. If you are working for a large hospital or clinic, you might be offered a higher salary than if you were to accept a position at a smaller medical office.

Salary Potential

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The average salary of an EKG technician falls around $56,000 per year. Essentially, about half of professionals in this field make more than this amount while half earn below this number. Individuals earning on the lowest end of the salary spectrum bring home about $29,000 per year.

However, those earning in the uppermost range may make as much annually as $89,000. If you are just starting out as an EKG technician, with your high school diploma, some training, and potentially some educational credentials, you can expect to earn around $31,000 a year initially.

Career Outlook of an EKG Technician

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Experience Is Key

In most careers, the more education and training you have, the greater your earning potential and career mobility is. This job is no different. Do not let this discourage you, as some time, patience, and training suffice to afford you significantly more opportunities for job growth.

The more experience you gain, the more options you will have. If, down the road, you decide you would like to switch to a different career path but stay within the medical field, your EKG technician experience could make it easier for you to transition into a degree in nuclear medical technology or radiation treatment, to name a few examples.

If you remain an EKG technician, pursuing additional certifications or on-the-job training opportunities will be invaluable tools for mobility. The career itself is thriving and always in high demand, so the more credentials you can present to an employer, the better. The longer you work in a facility, the greater your benefits often are. If you stick it out with a solid employer, you might have opportunities to work better shifts and take more vacation after a few years working there.

Field Growth

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The EKG technician field itself is growing by leaps and bounds, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting that jobs for cardiovascular professionals will grow 10 percent by 2026. This is much higher than the national average for other job fields. With an increase in patients needing effective testing and diagnostics performed to assess cardiovascular and related conditions, the role of EKG technician offers generous job security.

Conclusion

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Pursuing a career as an EKG technician offers a very rewarding, viable role that makes a palpable difference within the health care industry. In working with patients, assessing their needs, performing tests, and reading diagnostic results, you are playing an invaluable part in the detection and treatment of cardiovascular disorders.

If you would like to increase your earning potential and job mobility, consider completing an accredited educational program and sitting for one of the certifications exams we mentioned. This will make you extremely marketable to employers and offer considerable opportunities for growth in the long run.

Phlebotomist Job Description: All You Need to Know

Phlebotomists are involved in making surgical perforations and drawing blood from patients that is used for lab tests or for donations. Starting off a career in phlebotomy is rewarding, but you need to know the phlebotomist job description. You might be interested in becoming a phlebotomist, but if you have no idea where to start it's hard to know if it might be a career for you. So what does a phlebotomist job entail? This article highlights the phlebotomist job description, the requirements for staring, the job outlook, and salary information.

What Is a Phlebotomist and What Do They Do?

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Collecting Blood

To collect blood from an arm vein, the phlebotomist should first apply a tourniquet to the upper arm that slows blood flow. The phlebotomist then applies an alcohol swab to disinfect a small area near the the elbow. A vein is located and the phlebotomist inserts a needle through skin puncture by pricking a finger to test a patient’s blood sugar and to determine the blood type.


Working Conditions and Environment

Phlebotomists work in hospitals, clinical laboratories, community health centers, doctor’s offices, and blood donation centers, among other healthcare facilities. They are typically supervised by clinical laboratory technologist or any other medical professional. Phlebotomists must be careful and accurate. In a busy facility, they may take dozens of blood samples in a typical shift.

They must also be able to work under pressure without compromising safety and accuracy. Patients may be afraid of needles and part of the phlebotomist job description is putting the patient at ease. Phlebotomists should be able to handle emotional, difficult, and angry patients.

Phlebotomist Job Description: Duties and Responsibilities

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A phlebotomist job description typically entails the following duties and responsibilities:

  • Keeping work areas clean and sanitary
  • Entering patient information into a database
  • Drawing blood from patients and blood donors
  • Labeling the drawn blood for testing or processing
  • Talking with patients and donors to help them feel less nervous
  • Assembling and maintaining medical instruments such as test tubes, needles, and blood vials
  • Verifying of a patient's or donor's identity to safeguard proper labeling of the blood

Phlebotomist Job Description: Qualities

  • Physical stamina to stay on your feet for long periods
  • Hand-eye coordination for effective blood draws
  • Dexterity to use equipment properly
  • Detail-oriented outlook for accuracy in labeling, tracking, and recording information
  • Compassion to soothe patients and clients

Why Become a Phlebotomist?

You should pursue a career as a phlebotomist since it is a rewarding and the job outlook is bright. Phlebotomy services are on high demand. Blood analysis remains an essential function is medical laboratories and hospitals, which implies that the demand for phlebotomists will remain high. Job prospects are anticipated to be best for phlebotomists who received certification from reputable organizations.

Average  of a Phlebotomist and Job Outlook

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You can make a living as a phlebotomist. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), phlebotomists earn an average annual wage of about $32,000. The lowest paid 10% earn approximately $23,000, while the highest paid 10% earn $46,000. However, the industry in which you are employed also determines your salary. Phlebotomist job descriptions usually specify the salary.

The BLS reported that the top-paying industries for phlebotomists are:

  • Outpatient care centers: $34,990
  • Medical and diagnostic laboratories: $34,420
  • All other ambulatory healthcare services: 31,520
  • Offices of physicians: 31,520
  • Hospitals; state, local, and private: 31,300

Job Outlook

Phlebotomists hold approximately 122,700 jobs across the country. The largest employers in the phlebotomy career are:

  • Hospitals; state, local, and private: 37%
  • Medical and diagnostic laboratories:  32%
  • All other ambulatory healthcare services: 15%
  • Offices of physicians: 8%
  • Outpatient care centers: 2%

When you pursue a career as a phlebotomist, there is a lot of potential for growth. According to the BLS, employment of phlebotomists is anticipated to grow by 24% up to 2026, which is faster than most occupations.

Job Prospects

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Job prospects are best for phlebotomists who have received certification from one of the various reputable organizations. There were 122,700 phlebotomists employed in 2016. The projected employment in 2026 will be 152,600, which represents a 24% change. This means that 30,000 phlebotomists are needed by 2026. States with the highest level of phlebotomists include California, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

Requirements for Becoming a Phlebotomist

Phlebotomist job descriptions usually require the applicant to have a basic certification. To pursue a career as a phlebotomist and get certified, you need a post-secondary non-degree award from a phlebotomy program. These programs are available in community colleges, technical schools, and vocational schools.

The course take less than a year to complete and leads to certification. Instructors ensure that the students learn a variety of blood drawing techniques, basic anatomy and physiology, and safety standards. The content of the courses includes:

  • Professionalism
  • Finger and heel sticks
  • HIPAA and patient's rights
  • Medical laboratory terminology
  • Venipuncture with vacutainers, butterflies, and syringes
  • Blood and blood components
  • Universal precautions and safety
  • Test tube uses
  • Special procedures like understanding bleeding times, blood cultures, and glucose tolerance testing

However, some phlebotomists enter the profession with a high school diploma and are trained to be phlebotomists on the job. No matter the education level, phlebotomists usually receive specific instructions on how to identify, label, and track blood samples.

Associate Degree

While it is not mandatory for the phlebotomist certification, earning an associate degree provides you with a great deal of practical and specific knowledge about the profession. However, if you have a four-year degree, it is not worthwhile returning to school for the two-year associate degree. To enroll in an associate degree in phlebotomy, you must be 18 years or older, have a high school diploma or GED, and have a high English proficiency.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registration for Phlebotomists

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Almost all employers specify in the phlebotomist job description you need to have earned professional certification. There are a variety of agencies that offer phlebotomy certification and each has its own requirements. In addition, the phlebotomy certification you will earn varies because each organization gives their certificate a different name. However, all the certifications offered to suffice to earn you a phlebotomist job.

Phlebotomy Certification Bodies

  • The National Healthcareer Association (NHA), which gives the Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT) certificate
  • The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), which gives the National Certified Phlebotomy Technician (NCPT) certificate
  • The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), which gives the Phlebotomy Technician (PBT) certificate
  • The American Medical Technologists (AMT), which gives the Registered Phlebotomy Technician (RPT) certificate
  • The American Certification Agency (ACA), which gives the Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT) certificate

Even though the certifying bodies provide a similar product, the requirements differ. The certificate requirements for each are provided on their respective websites. For example, NHA certificate applicants should attend a phlebotomy training program that entails performing 10 capillary sticks and 30 venipunctures on patients. ASCP, however, does not need the completion of a training program as long as you have been trained as a phlebotomist or worked full-time in an accredited lab.

Renewal of Phlebotomy Certification

Each certification body requires certified phlebotomists to renew their certificates after a certain period. The period varies by the certifying body. Some may need annual renewal while others require bi-annual renewal. Each agency provides such information. If you fail to renew, you may incur extra costs to certify again. Some agencies may require you to retake the examination if you forget to renew your certification.

Conclusion

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Phlebotomist job descriptions usually provide the basic requirements that the applicant should meet, including qualities and certification demands. They also provide you with salary information. The average annual wage is about $32,000. The lowest paid 10% earn approximately $23,000, while the highest paid 10% earn $46,000. To get certified, you need a post-secondary non-degree award from a phlebotomy program.

To become a successful phlebotomist, always ensure that all equipment used in drawing blood is sanitized. Blood should be accurately labeled, stored properly, and carefully transported. Contamination or misidentification of blood samples can lead to serious consequences as medical practitioners rely on the blood test results to diagnose patients and monitor the treatment process.

The phlebotomist should observe strict safety protocols to avoid direct contact with the blood. Many diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis, can be transmitted via blood contact. A slight distraction can lead to a “needlestick” injury and an infection. Job prospects are anticipated to be best for phlebotomists who received certification from organizations.

National Health Career Association Certification Programs

As the healthcare field becomes increasingly competitive, employers are requiring more of their allied care professionals to obtain certifications. NHA offers eight different certification exam options and has above-average passing percentages.

What Is the National Healthcareer Association?

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The National Healthcareer Association is a certification exam provider that accredited through the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). NCCA accreditation ensures that certification programs meet the highest standards for professional competence. As an NCCA accredited institution, NHA is required to maintain documentation on the analysis of job tasks, standard setting summaries, and exam pass rates.

In addition to certification exams, NHA offers study packages to help students prepare for testing. The NHA collaborates with academic institutions to share knowledge of student performance analytics, which helps facilitate student success. In addition, institutions can improve their programs through enhanced study materials, enhanced professionalism, and improved outcomes.

The Purpose National Healthcareer Association?

NHA’s mission is “Empowering people to access a better future.” Their goal is to be the gold standard of certification providers in the industry. To help achieve this goal, materials and testing standards are routinely revised and improved. NHA’s primary objective is to improve patient care through competency excellence.

In addition, the NHA also sees itself as an important industry advocate. The National Healthcareer Association is involved with regulatory and legislative programs to endorse the certification industry, and the NHA works to ensure the development and advancement of allied healthcare workers.

Information about National Healthcareer Association Certification Programs

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NHA offers eight different certification programs for health care providers including:

  • Medical Assistant Certification (CCMA)
  • Phlebotomy Technician Certification (CPT)
  • Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA)
  • Certified EKG Technician (CET)
  • Certified Electronic Health Records Specialist (CEHRS)
  • Certified Patient Care Technician/Assistant (CPCT/A)
  • Certified Billing & Coding Specialist (CBCS)
  • Pharmacy Technician Certification (CPhT)

NHA certification exams assess the knowledge, skills, and tasks necessary to competently practice in allied health careers. Certification status is awarded to individuals who successfully pass their specialized exam. In order to sit for one of the National Healthcareer Association’s Certification exams, applicants are required to have:

  • Completed a training program in their area of specialization within the previous five years
  • A high school diploma or equivalent

Medical Assistant Certification (CCMA)

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Medical assistants perform multiple skills in a variety of health care settings. Not only can medical assistants perform clinical skills, but they also have important administrative functions. Medical assistants routinely interact with healthcare providers such as doctors, advanced practice nurses, and physician assistants.

Practice settings for medical assistants included doctors’ offices, health care clinics, urgent care facilities, and specialty centers. Medical Assistant Certification (CCMA) is a job requirement for many employers and can help advance the career of certified individuals.

In 2017, the pass rate for NHA’s CCMA exam was 72.9%. The certification is good for two years and requires continuing education and renewal fees to stay active. The exam consists of 150 scored items and individuals are allowed up to three hours to complete the test. The exam covers subject areas including:

  • Foundational Knowledge and Basic Science
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Clinical Patient Care
  • Patient Care Coordination and Education
  • Administrative Assisting
  • Communication and Customer Service
  • Medical Law and Ethics

Phlebotomy Technician Certification (CPT)

Phlebotomists are at increased demand in healthcare facilities across the country. The majority of companies either require phlebotomist certifications or are most likely to prefer certified applicants. Depending on the specific employer, Phlebotomy Technicians are required to:

  • Draw blood
  • Assess patients’ response and tolerance of the procedures
  • Administer point of care testing (i.e. blood sugar levels)
  • Prepare body fluids for testing
  • Utilize medical supplies such as specimen tubes, hypodermic needles, and blood vials

Phlebotomy Technicians typically work at hospitals, laboratories, and blood donation facilities. In order to qualify for the certification exam, applicants are required to:

  • Successfully complete a phlebotomy training program within the last five years
  • Successfully complete a phlebotomy training program within the last five years
  • Successfully complete a phlebotomy training program within the last five years

The National Healthcareer Association’s NHA Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT) exam consists of 100 scored items administered with a two-hour period. In 2017, NHA’s had the highest pass rate for their Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT) exam at 91.6%. Subject areas assessed covered in the exam include:

  • Safety and Compliance
  • Patient Preparation
  • Routine Blood Collections
  • Special Collections
  • Processing

Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA)

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Certified Medical Administrative Assistants perform clerical and administrative skills in healthcare office settings. Roles of Certified Medical Administrative Assistants may include:

  • Read and reply to both mail and email
  • Use computer technology to perform office tasks
  • Receptionist duties such as greeting patients, answering telephone calls, scheduling patient appointments, and maintaining medical records.
  • Managing employee reports such as time and attendance

NHA’s Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) exam consist of 110 scored items within a 2 hours 10 minutes time frame. NHA’s 2017 pass rate for the CMAA exam was 76%. Applicants are tested on subject areas such as:

  • Scheduling
  • Patient intake
  • Office logistics
  • Compliance
  • Patient education
  • General office policies and procedures
  • Basic medical terminology

Certified EKG Technician (CET)

Virtually all healthcare providers require EKG Technicians to pass the Certified EKG Technician (CET) exam prior to employment. Technicians must perform highly technical tasks such as performing EKGs, Holter monitoring, and stress tests. In addition, they bring patient results to physicians and transcribe test results.

The National Healthcareer Association CET exam is unique in that it not only certifies for EKGs, but also for Holter monitoring and stress testing. In 2017, NHA’s pass rate for the Certified EKG Technician (CET) exam was 89.4%. The NHA Certified EKG Technician (CET) exam consists of 100 scored items administered in a two-hour period. Exam content includes:

  • Safety, compliance, and patient care coordination
  • EKG acquisition
  • EKG analysis and interpretation

Certified Electronic Health Records Specialist (CEHRS)

Electronic Health Records Specialists are primarily responsible for ensuring complete and accurate patient data. Most healthcare employers require Electronic Health Records Specialists to be certified. Some of their roles include:

  • Auditing medical records
  • Coding and reimbursement
  • Medical records release requests
  • Gather patient demographics and healthcare coverage information
  • Communicate with physicians and insurance providers

The NHA Certified Electronic Health Record Specialist (CEHRS) exam contains 100 scored items given over 1 hour and 50 minutes. The exam pass rate at NHA for 2017 was 65.1%. Exam items include:

  • Software applications and equipment
  • Insurance and billing
  • Charting
  • Regulatory Compliance
  • Reporting

Pharmacy Technician Certification (CPhT)

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Pharmacy Technicians are medical professionals that work in settings such as hospitals, pharmacies, medical offices, and grocery stores. Most employers require Pharmacy Technicians to have their certifications. Pharmacy Technicians may perform the following skills:

  • Process prescriptions from patients, doctors, and hospitals
  • Measure, package, inventory, and label medications
  • Maintain accurate medical records
  • Process payments and insurance claims

The NHA Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) exam consists of 100 scored items administered over 2 hours and 10 minutes. The NHA Certified Pharmacy Technician exam had the lowest pass rate in 2017 at 58.9%. Exam content includes:

  • Overview and laws
  • Medications and drug therapy
  • Dispensing process
  • Medication safety and quality assurance

Certified Billing & Coding Specialist (CBCS)

Billing & Coding Specialists have a variety of prospects for employment. Potential employers include hospitals, doctors’ offices, outpatient surgery centers, retirement homes, dentist offices, home health care agencies, behavioral health facilities, insurance companies, and consulting organizations. Essential skills for Billing & Coding Specialists include:

  • Obtaining and evaluating patient data
  • Documentation verification prior to release of patient information
  • Billing audits
  • Assistance with coding and billing
  • Assigning diagnostic and procedural codes
  • Submitting reimbursement claims

The NHA Certified Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS) exam contains 100 scored items and is administered over 2 hours. The NHA pass rate for the CBCS exam in 2017 was 71.5%. Exam content includes:

  • Regulatory Compliance
  • Claims Processing
  • Front-end duties
  • Payment adjudication
  • Coding knowledge application
  • Certified Patient Care Technician/Assistant (CPCT/A)

Patient Care Technicians/Assistants are an essential need in the healthcare profession. They assist patients with activities of daily living and other essential tasks. PCT/As work in diverse healthcare environments including:

  • Long-term care facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Residential treatment facilities
  • Assisted Living
  • Other healthcare facilities

Patient Care Technicians/Assistants are skilled in multiple different tasks depending on their area of specialization. Some of their essential duties include:

  • Assisting with patient care
  • Obtaining vital signs
  • Dispensing patient care items
  • Cleaning and maintaining patient rooms
  • Some PCT/As are skilled in phlebotomy and EKG procedures

The NHA Certified Patient Care Technician/Assistant (CPCT/A) exam comprises 100 scored items given over 1 hour and 50 minutes. NHA’s 2017 pass rate for the exam was 76.5%. Test items include:

  • Patient care
  • Phlebotomy and EKG preparation and monitoring
  • Safety
  • Professional duties
  • Infection control

Conclusion

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The National Healthcareer Association is a premier certification provider in the United States. With higher than average pass rates, superior competencies, and improved patient care. Employers benefit from hiring certified allied healthcare workers through improved workflow, safety and satisfaction. NHA should be the first choice for anybody seeking allied health certifications.