CNA/PCT - What's the difference?

Students Technicians


I'm in block three of an ADN program in Arizona. CNAs are certified here by the BON, but PCTs are not. I can't find any info online how I can get certified as a PCT without taking a course.

I can't even find anything about who governs PCTs here. I really don't understand the difference between them, except PCTs can do a bit more... but who defines their scope? Are they just CNAs with more training by their employer?

SoldierNurse22, BSN, RN

10 Articles; 2,058 Posts

A CNA -- certified nurse assistant -- is trained and certified in the very basic skills of nursing care. They are certified at the state level.

A PCT -- patient care technician -- has no such certification. It's a general term for unlicensed assistive personnel that typically work under nursing in a hospital setting. A PCT may in fact be a CNA, but typically, there is no prerequisite to becoming a PCT aside from getting hired into the position.

For example: I used to work at a hospital. I was a PCT. I was also licensed EMT-B. I would occasionally work with other PCTs who were CNAs, but there were many, many PCTs who had no formal training/licensure to speak of. Some of them were pre-nursing students, some of them were simply laymen hired into an entry-level assistive personnel position.

ArrowRN, BSN, RN

4 Articles; 1,149 Posts

Specializes in Med Surg, PCU, Travel.

In Florida most PCT's are required to be CNA's so they are governed partly by the BON. However, they also have additional training in EKG monitoring and phlebotomy. Some CNA's do this training on their own and become PCT's. If you have no CNA you can take the PCT courses which will include CNA, ekg and phlebotomy. You can be certified in each area separately but their is no state PCT certification. They can do the job of a CNA, monitor tech and phlebotomy tech, its the way hospitals are going now, to have a tech that does it all. As a nursing student you may be able to challenge the CNA exam in your state...then if you do the additional training courses separately you would be qualified to do the job of a PCT. Some hospitals hire nursing students without any of those certifications and give them all the training and label them as "nurse techs"


495 Posts

A PCT in New York is required to have a CNA certification. It's just another class you take where they teach phlebotomy and EKG's. The class prepares you to sit for the test by say the NHA, who will give you the certification in PCT.

Or a hospital may hire you as a CNA and teach you phlebotomy and EKG's. The hospital will certify you to perform them in their facility.


78 Posts

Specializes in Pediatrics.

Here in Oklahoma, a PCT/AUA is a state-nursing-board certification. You don't have to get your CNA...its seems as a step above in training/certification.


446 Posts

Best definition I can come up with is a CNA is a Certified Nurse Aide, a PCT is an uncertified Nurse aide(except that some PCTs are CNAs).

Both do basically the same basic thing, assist Nurses with patient care duties.

If it (PCA) is the equivalent of Continuing Care Aide here, we can apply after our first year of our BSN program to work as one. Maybe you are already able to work as one :)


40 Posts

Specializes in Geriatrics and Rehab.

CNA and PCT both provide basic nursing care. CNAs are certified by the state and most of them work in nursing homes or long-term care until they get experience to work in hospitals.

PCTs are not certified by the state, but can recieve national certification from organizations such as the NHA. Some PCTs are trained in EKG , medical office skills and phlebotomy. In my state, they can work in clinics and doctors offices as well as hospitals. Also in my area, you can't be a PCT without a CNA certification. A couple of counties away from me, they hire PCTs off the street without medical training or experience.I guess it all depends on where you live...

NICUmiiki, DNP, NP

1,774 Posts

Specializes in Neonatal Nurse Practitioner.

A PCT = CNA at my hospital. There is also a PCT course at the local technical college. They get their CNA, EKG, and Phlebotomy certs.


171 Posts

In my hospital system (in Pittsburgh) a CNA can only do basic care activities, ambulation and things like emptying drains and Foley bags. As PCTs, we can do the same, but also draw blood, insert IV catheters, insert straight and Foley catheters, monitor and transport unstable cardiac patients, and basically do anything else (other than pass meds - and even that OFTEN happens) that the "nonprofit" system does not want to train or pay RNs to do. A lot of cities have no distinction, in Pgh, at least at UPMC, there is a huge difference. Not many non nursing students can score a PCT job. Great experience, but nursing labor for slave wages... Sorry for my rant, but doing a 30$/hr job for 14$/hr gets old real quick.

At the same time, pad that resume with all the skills you can acquire. Good luck!


51 Posts

PCTs have their CNA and even more experience. CNAs are mostly in nursing homes. PCTs are in the hospital and do more skilled tasks.

(This is based on their roles in my state.)


105 Posts

Specializes in LTC.

It all depends on the state, and within that state, it all depends on the area as to how the position is defined.(At least in my state). If that makes any sense. Here in my area of NC, there are CNAs working in hospitals,and they're called CNAs. Then I can drive 30 miles to another county, and the CNAs are called PCTs. Then I can go to yet another hospital in another area of the state, and there are CNAs AND PCTs working. Other states may define it as the posts listed above, and some states consider PCT and CNAs two different things. I've heard of states defining CNAs with a phlebotomy cert as PCTs. I just wish we could call it all one thing, from state to state. To add to the confusion, North Carolina also has a CNA II. lol.

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