How to Create a Patient Care Technician (PCT) Curriculum

Patient care technicians (PCTs) are some of the most in-demand medical personnel throughout the United States right now.

Their diverse skillset and job description make PCTs a valuable addition to any medical team, working as generalists who can do a little bit of everything while comforting a patient and keeping their spirits high.

It’s a complex job with a lot of moving parts. Plus, because of the element of patient interaction, it requires someone to be flexible, sharp, and quick-witted all at the same time.

That’s a tall order for anyone — especially students looking into health science careers for the first time.

That’s why they rely on you, the teacher, to show them what they need to know.

So how can you give your students the best PCT curriculum possible?

Part 1. Plan the PCT “Hard” Skills

01-patient-care-technician-hard-skills

The most important part of any medical curriculum is teaching the proper hands-on skills. This is especially true for PCTs since they need to learn such a wide variety of skills.

As a result, it’s a challenge to narrow down which skills a PCT should learn in the classroom. After all, their profession works as a catch-all in a medical environment, so students who want to become PCTs have to know a little bit of everything.

Those practical skills include:

  1. Recording vital signs
  2. Performing EKGs
  3. First aid
  4. CPR
  5. Handling lab specimens
  6. Drawing blood
  7. Primary care

You may have noticed that PCTs share some skill overlap with other, more specialized medical professions.

Working with an EKG could easily be done by a certified EKG technician. Drawing blood is the primary task for a phlebotomist. Even primary care can be done by individuals with other job descriptions, like a certified nursing assistant.

But these individuals may not interact with the same patients every day. A PCT, on the other hand, will have responsibilities for the same patients — or groups of patients — until those patients are out of the medical environment.

That goes for hospitals, private practice, assisted living, and more. 

Still, technical skills are only the beginning for a PCT.

Part 2. Plan the PCT “Soft” Skills

02-patient-care-technician-soft-skills

Since they interact with patients so frequently, PCTs need a variety of soft skills that can be a little more challenging to discuss in a curriculum.

Those soft skills include:

  1. People skills
  2. Empathy
  3. Emotional intelligence
  4. Confidence
  5. Patience
  6. Time management
  7. Critical thinking

These skills may not always feel like they matter as much as the technical skills. After all, it’s more important to properly know how to draw someone’s blood than to hold a polite conversation.

Or is it?

The US National Library of Medicine has a record of a patient study performed in 2012 discussing the importance of communication in the medical field, primarily for doctors.

But the lessons of the study hold true for every professional involved in patient interaction.

The study focuses on the radiology department of a hospital and how they explain their procedures and discoveries with patients.

To summarize, the results of the study show that using “rapid rapport techniques, patient-centered talking styles, and use of hypnotic language” all contribute to a patient’s sense of positive communication in a medical setting.

This is especially important to a medical practice as a whole since — according to the study — “poor communication” is the #1 reason cited in malpractice lawsuits in the United States.

As a result, the better your PCT students can learn to communicate, the more successful they’ll be in their careers both with patients and their employers.

With all of this information on your side, you’re ready to move into properly teaching your students to become PCTs.

Part 3. Teach the Skills in Theory and Practice

03-patient-care-technician-practicals

Teaching PCT skills takes a two-pronged approach.

First, you have to teach the theory behind each skill. Even if you’re discussing soft skills, it’s still important to talk about why those skills matter.

The more your students understand the “why” behind what they’re learning, the more passionate they’ll become about learning it.

But understanding a skill doesn’t make someone proficient in it.

That’s why you also have to teach clinicals.

This is a no-brainer for any health science teacher. Clinicals are the way that everyone learns every skill in the medical sector.

After all, the best way to learn is by doing.

When you’re at this point in your curriculum, your students aren’t just practicing a skill though. They’re combining the theory of the skill with the action of the skill itself.

That could mean they’re going through a checklist in their mind before drawing blood. They might be making a conscious effort to smile or make small talk before they find a vein in a mock phlebotomy scenario.

Regardless of what they’re practicing, keep an eye out for students who are striving to mix the theory you taught with the application they need to practice.

When you find a student who does that, you know they’re engaged with the class and your lessons.

When you find a student who doesn’t, you may have to work with them on an individual basis to get them to their full potential.

Still, this is just one way to observe your students as they learn and practice PCT skills.

The best way to evaluate their progress is with actual assessments. 

Part 4. Assess Your PCT Students’ Progress

04-patient-care-technician-assessment

The most common PCT assessments in today’s health science programs focus on the skills and information that students need to earn their certifications.

That means you may need different assessments, depending on the state in which you teach and the certification for which your students need to be prepared.

Some of the best ways of assessing student progress include scored clinicals, regular quizzes, and cumulative exams.

You can also use other classroom resources, including roleplaying scenarios and interactive curriculum, to ensure your students have learned what they need to start their careers.  

Still, your assessments can only take students so far.

The key assessment of what a student learned is their certification exam.

Part 5. Get Your Students Certified as CPCTs

05-patient-care-technician-certification

A certification is the single most important part of a health science student’s education.

Unless you live in an area that doesn’t require certification for hiring, your students literally can’t work without their certification.

Unfortunately, that certification changes based on where you live, typically at the state level. That means the requirements to work as a PCT may also vary depending on your state. 

For example, the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) requires PCT students to know about basic patient care, special needs identification, regular safety checks, and emotional support to patient families.

That may not always fall under a PCT’s responsibilities in the workplace — especially the emotional support section — but that’s what NHA requires.

Likewise, the American Medical Certification Association (AMCA) requires PCT students to recognize unusual vitals, communicate with nurses, follow a nurse’s direction, care for patient wounds, and transport patients.

This is similar to the NHA requirements, but more specific in certain areas. As a result, the information that lets a student pass the NHA PCT exam is different than the information a student needs to pass the AMCA exam.

Even beyond those two certification boards, you also have the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) and state testing organizations  that all have different requirements.

The spirit of these certifications are all the same. They’re designed to show that your students know what they need to know in order to work as a PCT.

You just have to know which certification applies to your state!

All in all, teaching a PCT course is hard work.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could make it easier on yourself while providing the same great educational value to your students?

Make Your Patient Care Technician Curriculum with HealthCenter21

hc21-logo-1

HealthCenter21 is a full-fledged digital curriculum that comes complete with pre-made lesson plans, customizable assessments, and interactive experiences.

Designed for high school students and older age groups, HealthCenter21 is proven to help student engagement and long-term information retention.

You can even use it to help with certification prep!

In fact, one HealthCenter21 teacher – Lynne Clarke of Georgia – used HealthCenter21 to get 100% of her students to pass the NHA PCT certification.

Want to find out how?

Read Lynne’s story for yourself!

Read Lynne's Story >