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Difference between a CNA and PCT

Patient care technicians (PCTs) and certified nursing assistants play vital role in the nursing field. Both carry out their duties in the similar work settings; however, their tasks may differ slightly. Both professions are different, so students should not be confused between both careers. The requirements and scope of work of the nurse aides and PCTs are determined separately by each state.

Let’s discuss in detail the difference between both the professions.

1. Educational Requirements

To be a CNA, you are required to have a high school diploma or GED. Besides, you must possess an active nurse aide license.

A nurse aide licensure, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certificate or phlebotomy certificate are compulsory requirements to work as a patient care technician.

2. Program

A candidate must complete the CNA Program program through a vocational, technical or community college. The duration of the program depends on the requirements of the state. It involves classroom instructions and clinical practice and lasts for four to six weeks. Some nursing assistant programs also include the coursework of PCT program.

PCT programs may vary in content as per the requirements of the state. PCT programs may take 20 to 24 weeks to complete and include some advance courses like ECG and phlebotomy.

3. Licensing and Certification

A candidate must qualify the state certification exam after completing the program program to earn CNA certificate. This certificate must be renewed after every 2 years.

License requirements for PCTs differ from state to state. Some states require you to possess certificate to draw blood or a phlebotomy license while other states may necessitate the candidates to possess a certificate, if they wish to work with patients undergoing dialysis treatments. A patient care technician is also required to obtain a license, in order to perform some advanced duties in some states such as license for ECG.

4. Work Experience

No work experience is required to start working as a CNA. But to be a PCT, you must have work experience as a nurse aide, ECG technician or phlebotomist.

5. Scope of Practice

A CNA has a limited scope of practice as compared to a PCT. Nursing assistants provide only basic care to the patients. They are not allowed to take decisions on their own. They can’t carry out the duties of a PCT.

A patient care technician has authority to provide basic medical treatments to the patients and perform the duties of a CNA.

6. Job Duties and Responsibilities

The daily tasks which a nurse aide has to perform include:

  • Answering the call signals.
  • Measuring and recording the liquid and food intake of the clients.
  • Assist the patients in moving, turning, exercising.
  • Monitor the vital signs or parameters.

The duties of a PCT are as follows:

  • Drawing blood.
  • ECG reading.
  • Checking the nutritional value of the patient’s diet.
  • Escorting patients to treatment areas.
  • Assisting the clients in motion exercises.
  • Administering IV’s.
  • Collecting specimens for diagnostic test.
  • Performing basic laboratory work.

7. Working Alternatives

A certified nursing assistant may work in hospice, day care centers, hospitals, residential care facilities, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and long-term health care centers.

Besides above mentioned work settings, a PCT can also work in cancer clinics, blood banks and dialysis clinics.

8. Salary

As of November 21, 2019, the average hourly salary of Patient Care Technician was reported to be $13.67 (according to As per, the average median salary of PCT, as of November 12, 2019, was reported to be between $19,510 to $36,523 while the hourly income fluctuated from $9.28 and $17.

The mean hourly income of Nursing Assistants in May 2018 was $14.22 while the mean annual salary was $29,580 (as per the statistics of the BLS).