Medical Assistant vs Patient Care Technician

Medical Assistant vs Patient Care Technician

One of the more commonly asked questions when it comes to entering the medical field is “what is a medical assistant vs patient care technician.” The answer might surprise you. 

A medical assistant is generally certified as a medical assistant and goes through an average of one full year of schooling at a community college. A patient care technician is often a nurse assistant working in a hospital setting and undergoes an average of 12 weeks of vocational training.

However, both make around the same rate, even though one requires less training. This can depend on the state you’re applying for as some states require a PCT to have experience with medication reconciliation, lab testing and drawing blood (medical assistants are certified in this and nurse assistants are not). Medical assistant vs patient care technician, let’s dive into the differences. 

Medical Assistant 

A medical assistant vs a patient care technician generally works in a physician’s office and has training in both front and back office medical assisting. 

Responsibilities 

Front Office  

  • Answering calls, returning messages and scheduling patient appointments 
  • Maintaining communication to confirm future appointments
  • Documenting patients’ medical information, including medical history and health insurance information
  • Performing data entry tasks to document patient records within facility databases and maintaining patient files
  • Coordinating daily office activities, greeting patients and checking patients in and out for their appointments

Back Office 

  • Recording patients’ vital signs, documenting physicians’ notes and changes in medical conditions
  • Taking tissue and fluid samples and sending them in for laboratory analysis
  • Prepping exam rooms for clinical procedures and assisting practitioners with patient care
  • Assisting physicians during routine checkups, outpatient procedures and other physical exams
  • Monitoring and documenting patient symptoms for physicians’ review during clinical exams
  • Providing compassionate patient support and care, attention and assistance during office visits
  • Preparing and administering medications under the direction of supervising physicians

Patient Care Technician 

A patient care technician generally works in a hospital setting on units such as Telemetry, Medical Surgical and ICU. They are responsible for assisting the nurse with nearly all aspects of patient care from time of arrival to discharge. 

Responsibilities 

  • Keep patient rooms tidy and sanitized
  • Assist patients with personal hygiene, using the restroom, grooming etc.
  • Monitor vital signs (temperature, pulse etc.) or EKG signals and patient condition every four hours or as prescribed by the physician
  • Assist nursing staff in administering basic treatments
  • Perform basic nursing procedures (e.g. changing bandages)
  • Ensure rooms have adequate patient care supplies
  • Assist patients with particular issues or needs
  • Provide appropriate emotional support
  • Assist with feeding as needed
  • Pass meal trays 

Medical Assistant vs. Patient Care Technician 

The biggest differentiators between a medical assistant and patient care technician is the environment that they work in. As you can see above a medical assistant vs a patient care technician does not seem that different when comparing the responsibilities. However, as noted above the amount of training as well as the location of work is what sets these two apart. 

Love fast-paced settings, don’t mind 12 hour shifts and plan to work in a hospital one day? A role as a patient care technician vs a medical assistant might be the best option for you. 

Love slow-paced settings, stability, and don’t mind working 5 days a week? Looking to advance your career in a physician’s office? A medical assistant role might be the best option for you. 

The difference between a medical assistant and patient care technician might be minor, but it can play a role in where you get hired and what training you’ll need. 

Thinking about becoming a medical assistant vs patient care technician? Let us know in the comments below. 

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About the author

Ashley Carty

Ashley Carty is a seasoned medical professional with over 8 years of experience working at the top hospitals in Southern California, including Hoag, Saddleback Memorial, and UCSD.

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