Patient Care Technician Program Curriculum

The curriculum in a Patient Care Technician program typically covers topics such as anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, infection control, patient care skills, vital sign monitoring, phlebotomy, electrocardiogram (ECG) monitoring, and basic laboratory procedures. The program may also include clinical rotations or hands-on training in a healthcare setting to provide practical experience in patient care.

Patient Care Technician Curriculum

A Patient Care Technician (PCT) program is designed to train individuals to provide direct care to patients in various healthcare settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities. The curriculum of a PCT program aims to equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in their roles as caregivers, assisting patients with activities of daily living, and supporting nursing and medical staff.

Basic Nursing Skills: This includes topics like personal hygiene, grooming, bathing, dressing, and feeding patients, as well as transferring and positioning patients safely.

Anatomy and Physiology: A foundational understanding of the human body, including body systems, organs, and their functions.

Medical Terminology: The language of medicine, including terms related to anatomy, physiology, diagnoses, and medical procedures.

Phlebotomy: Techniques for drawing blood samples for laboratory testing, including proper needle selection, venipuncture, and specimen handling.

Electrocardiography (ECG): Fundamentals of monitoring and interpreting cardiac rhythms, including performing 12-lead ECGs and recognizing common arrhythmias.

Infection Control: Best practices for preventing the spread of infections in healthcare settings, including hand hygiene, personal protective equipment, and isolation precautions.

Vital Signs: Procedures for measuring and recording blood pressure, pulse, respiration, temperature, and pain.

Communication and Interpersonal Skills: Effective communication strategies, active listening, and maintaining professional boundaries with patients and colleagues.

CPR and Basic Life Support (BLS): Training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, including the use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs), and maintaining an open airway.

Medical Law and Ethics: Understanding the legal and ethical principles that govern patient care, including confidentiality, informed consent, and patient rights.

Patient Assessment: Techniques for evaluating a patient’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being, including gathering a patient history and conducting a basic physical exam.

Special Populations: Care considerations for specific patient populations, such as pediatric, geriatric, and bariatric patients, as well as patients with cognitive or physical disabilities.

medical stethoscope placed on white background

Core Courses

photo of woman wearing protective goggles and mask

Basic Nursing Skills

The Basic Nursing Skills course in the Patient Care Technician program focuses on teaching students the foundational skills and knowledge required to provide safe and effective care to patients. This course is a crucial part of the PCT curriculum, as it helps students understand their role within the healthcare team and develop essential nursing skills that they will use throughout their careers. Some key components of the Basic Nursing Skills course include:

Infection Control

The course covers principles of infection control, including standard precautions, proper hand hygiene, and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent the spread of infections in healthcare settings.

Patient Environment

Students learn how to maintain a clean and safe environment for patients, which includes making beds, cleaning patient rooms, and practicing proper waste disposal techniques.

Body Mechanics

CNAs must know how to use proper body mechanics when lifting, moving, and transferring patients to prevent injury to themselves or the patients. The course includes techniques for safe patient handling and positioning.

Patient Care Skills

The course covers basic patient care skills, such as assisting with activities of daily living (ADLs) like bathing, dressing, grooming, and feeding patients. It also covers proper techniques for toileting, oral care, and skincare.


Accurate and timely documentation is essential in healthcare. Students learn the importance of documenting patient information, including vital signs, care provided, and any changes in the patient’s condition.


Effective communication with patients, their families, and the healthcare team is emphasized throughout the course. Students learn about therapeutic communication techniques, active listening, and how to handle challenging situations.

Observing and Reporting

CNAs play a crucial role in monitoring patients’ conditions and reporting any changes or concerns to the supervising nurse. The course covers the importance of observation, recognizing signs and symptoms of common medical conditions, and understanding when to report information to the nurse.

The Basic Nursing Skills course combines classroom instruction with practical, hands-on training to ensure that students develop a strong foundation in nursing care. This course, along with other components of the CNA program, prepares students to work confidently and competently in various healthcare settings.

Anatomy and Physiology

The Anatomy and Physiology course in the patient care technician program is designed to provide students with a foundational understanding of the human body’s structure and function. While the course may not be as comprehensive as those taken by nursing or medical students, it offers essential knowledge to help them provide appropriate and safe care to their patients. Key components of the Anatomy and Physiology course in a PCT program include:

Body Systems

The course covers major body systems, such as the circulatory, respiratory, digestive, urinary, nervous, musculoskeletal, and integumentary systems. Students learn about the primary functions of each system and how they work together to maintain overall health and homeostasis.

Organs and Structures

Students learn about the main organs and structures within each body system, their functions, and their locations. This helps PCTs to better understand the implications of various medical conditions and interventions on patients’ well-being.

Common Health Conditions

The course may cover some common health conditions and diseases that PCTs may encounter in their practice, such as hypertension, diabetes, heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Understanding these conditions helps patient care technicians provide appropriate care and recognize potential complications.

Aging Process

The course may also touch upon the normal physiological changes that occur with aging and how they affect different body systems. This helps PCTs to provide better care for older adults and be aware of age-related health concerns.

The Anatomy and Physiology course in a PCT program combines classroom instruction with visual aids, such as anatomical models and charts, to help students grasp the concepts effectively. While the course’s primary focus is to support patient care. technicians in their caregiving roles, it also lays a solid foundation for those who wish to pursue further education in nursing or other healthcare professions.

Medical Terminology

In a Patient Care Technician (PCT) program, the Medical Terminology course is an essential part of the curriculum. It focuses on teaching students the language of medicine, which helps them communicate effectively with healthcare professionals and understand medical records, diagnoses, and procedures. This course typically covers:

  1. Word Structure: Understanding the basic components of medical terms, including prefixes, suffixes, and root words, which are primarily derived from Greek and Latin.
  2. Combining Forms: Learning how to combine different word parts to create new medical terms, and understanding the significance of combining vowels.
  3. Medical Abbreviations and Acronyms: Familiarizing students with common abbreviations and acronyms used in medical documentation and communication.
  4. Anatomical Terminology: Terms related to the human body’s structure, including the names of organs, tissues, and body systems. This includes directional terms, body planes, and anatomical positions.
  5. Pathological Conditions: Terminology related to diseases, injuries, and disorders, including symptoms, signs, and diagnostic tests.
  6. Diagnostic Procedures and Therapeutic Interventions: Terms associated with various diagnostic procedures, such as imaging studies and laboratory tests, as well as therapeutic interventions like surgeries and medications.
  7. Pharmacology: An introduction to drug classifications, generic and brand names, dosages, routes of administration, and drug interactions.
  8. Specialty-Specific Terminology: Familiarizing students with the vocabulary unique to specific medical specialties, such as cardiology, neurology, gastroenterology, and more.

The Medical Terminology course in a PCT program aims to provide students with a strong foundation in the language of medicine, enabling them to understand and communicate medical information accurately and efficiently. As they progress through the program and begin their careers, this knowledge will be crucial for their ability to provide high-quality patient care and collaborate effectively with other healthcare professionals.

Vital Signs

The Vital Signs course in the Patient Care Technician program is an essential component that teaches students how to accurately measure, record, and interpret vital signs in order to monitor patients’ health status and identify potential health concerns. Vital signs are crucial indicators of a patient’s overall well-being and include temperature, pulse, respiration, and blood pressure. The key elements of the Vital Signs course include:

  1. Temperature: Students learn how to measure body temperature using various methods (oral, axillary, tympanic, or temporal) and devices (digital or electronic thermometers). They are taught to recognize the normal temperature range and identify deviations that may indicate a fever, infection, or other health issues.
  2. Pulse: The course covers how to locate and palpate various pulse points on the body, such as the radial, carotid, or apical pulse. Students learn how to measure the pulse rate, rhythm, and strength, and understand the normal range for different age groups and situations.
  3. Respiration: They learn how to observe and count a patient’s respiratory rate, as well as assess the quality and depth of their breathing. They are taught to recognize normal respiratory patterns and identify signs of respiratory distress or other abnormalities that may require intervention.
  4. Blood Pressure: The course teaches students how to measure blood pressure using a manual sphygmomanometer or an electronic blood pressure monitor. They learn about the importance of accurate blood pressure measurement, factors that can affect blood pressure readings, and the normal blood pressure range for various age groups.
  5. Oxygen Saturation: Some Patient Care Tech programs may also include training in measuring oxygen saturation using a pulse oximeter. This noninvasive device helps assess the patient’s oxygen levels and can be important for patients with respiratory conditions or those receiving supplemental oxygen.
  6. Recognizing and Reporting Abnormalities: Patient Care Technicians must be able to identify and report any abnormal vital signs to the supervising nurse promptly. The course emphasizes the importance of early detection and intervention in addressing potential health concerns and maintaining patient safety.
  7. Documentation: Accurate and timely documentation of vital signs is crucial for effective patient care and communication among healthcare team members. The course teaches students the importance of proper documentation and the facility’s specific policies and procedures related to vital signs.

The Vital Signs course combines classroom instruction with hands-on practice to ensure students develop the skills and confidence needed to perform these measurements accurately and consistently. By mastering the techniques taught in this course, patient care technicians play a vital role in monitoring patients’ health and contributing to their overall well-being.

face masks on blue background
patient with iv line

Patient Assessment

The Patient Assessment course in a Patient Care Technician (PCT) program focuses on teaching students the necessary skills and techniques to evaluate a patient’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Effective patient assessment is crucial for PCTs, as it helps them identify changes in a patient’s condition and communicate critical information to other healthcare professionals involved in the patient’s care.

Key components of the Patient Assessment course may include:

Medical History

Gathering a comprehensive patient history, including present illness, past medical history, family history, social history, and review of systems. Students learn to ask appropriate questions and listen actively to the patient’s responses.

Physical Examination

Learning the techniques for conducting a basic physical exam, including inspection, palpation, percussion, and auscultation. This involves examining various body systems, such as the integumentary, cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, and nervous systems.

Vital Signs

The proper methods for measuring and recording vital signs, including blood pressure, pulse, respiration rate, temperature, and pain assessment. Students learn to recognize abnormal values and understand their potential implications.

Mental and Emotional Assessment

Evaluating a patient’s mental and emotional state, including assessing their level of consciousness, mood, behavior, and orientation to time, place, and person.


Accurate and timely documentation of assessment findings, using standardized terminology and adhering to legal and ethical requirements for maintaining patient confidentiality.


Effective communication with patients, their families, and other healthcare professionals, including active listening, empathy, and professional boundaries.

Cultural Competence

Understanding and respecting the diversity of patients’ cultural backgrounds, beliefs, and values, and recognizing how these factors may influence patient care and communication.

Special Populations

Adapting assessment techniques for specific patient populations, such as pediatric, geriatric, pregnant, or disabled patients, and recognizing the unique considerations for each group.

Throughout the Patient Assessment course, students develop the skills needed to perform thorough assessments, identify potential health concerns, and effectively communicate their findings to other healthcare professionals. These skills are critical for PCTs to provide high-quality care and support the broader healthcare team in the management of patients’ health.

patients getting a blood test in theinside clinic

Special Populations

The Special Populations course in a Patient Care Technician (PCT) program is designed to teach students how to provide appropriate care and support for specific patient groups with unique needs. This course is essential for PCTs, as it helps them adapt their skills and approach to meet the diverse needs of patients they may encounter in various healthcare settings.

Key components of the Special Populations course may include:

Pediatric Patients

Understanding the unique needs and developmental stages of infants, children, and adolescents, as well as age-appropriate communication techniques, pain assessment, and safety considerations.

Geriatric Patients

Addressing the physical, cognitive, and social changes that occur with aging, and the implications for patient care, including chronic conditions management, medication safety, mobility assistance, and end-of-life care.

Patients with Cognitive Impairments

Providing care for patients with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other cognitive impairments, focusing on effective communication, safety, and maintaining dignity and autonomy.

Patients with Physical Disabilities

Adapting care techniques for patients with mobility limitations, paralysis, amputations, or other physical disabilities, including assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), transfers, and adaptive equipment.

Bariatric Patients

Understanding the specific needs and challenges of caring for patients with obesity, including proper body mechanics, safe patient handling, and sensitivity to the psychosocial aspects of obesity.

Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders

Recognizing and responding appropriately to patients with mental health conditions or substance use disorders, focusing on effective communication, de-escalation techniques, and providing non-judgmental support.

Cultural Competence and Diversity

Developing cultural competence and sensitivity to address the diverse cultural, religious, and social backgrounds of patients, and recognizing the impact of these factors on patient care and communication.

Palliative and End-of-Life Care

Providing compassionate care for patients with terminal illnesses or those receiving palliative care, including managing symptoms, addressing emotional and spiritual needs, and supporting families during the end-of-life process.

By completing the Special Populations course, PCT students gain the knowledge and skills necessary to adapt their care approach to meet the unique needs of various patient populations. This understanding enables them to provide high-quality, patient-centered care that respects and accommodates individual differences and promotes the well-being of all patients.

How is the Patient Care Technician Curriculum Evaluated?

The Patient Care Technician (PCT) curriculum is evaluated through a combination of methods to ensure that students acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to provide high-quality patient care. Evaluation methods may vary depending on the institution or program but often include the following:

Written exams

Assessing students’ understanding of course material and their ability to apply theoretical knowledge to real-life situations through multiple-choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank, and short-answer questions.

Practical Skill Assessment

Evaluating students’ competence in performing specific clinical skills, such as phlebotomy, patient assessment, or CPR, through hands-on demonstrations, usually under the supervision of an instructor or preceptor.

Clinical Rotations or Externship

Monitoring students’ performance during clinical rotations or externships in various healthcare settings, where they have the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in real-world situations. Instructors, preceptors, or supervisors may provide feedback and evaluate students’ progress based on factors such as professionalism, communication, patient care, and adherence to safety protocols.

Quizzes and Assignments

Assessing students’ knowledge and understanding of course material through periodic quizzes, case studies, group projects, or written assignments.

Attendance and Participation

Evaluating students’ engagement and active participation in classroom discussions, group activities, and clinical experiences.

Self-Assessment and Peer Evaluation

Encouraging students to reflect on their own progress and performance, as well as provide constructive feedback to their peers.

Final Examinations

Comprehensive exams at the end of the program, assessing students’ overall knowledge and skills acquired throughout the curriculum.

Certification Exam Preparation

Many PCT programs include preparation for national certification exams, such as the Certified Patient Care Technician (CPCT) exam offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) or the Patient Care Technician/Assistant (PCT/A) exam offered by the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT).

Upon successful completion of the PCT curriculum and evaluations, students may earn a certificate or diploma and become eligible to pursue national certification or state registration, depending on the requirements of their jurisdiction. This credential demonstrates their competence in the field and can enhance their employability and career advancement opportunities.

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