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PCT in CVICU or ER Tech?

Nurses   (316 Views | 6 Replies)
by JEE93 JEE93 (New) New

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I would like some advice regarding a possible position as a patient care tech in a CVICU vs. remaining as an ER tech. I am about to start my last semester of nursing school (I will graduate in July), and I have been working as an ER tech for the past 2.5 years. I have been contemplating CRNA school recently and think I would like to pursue this. I have shadowed some, and the more I see, the more interested I am in this career. 

I know that CVICU is one of the best ICUs to get experience in for CRNA school, and I might possibly have an opportunity to work as a PCT in a local CVICU. The unit is at a large Level 1 trauma hospital. I have shadowed in this unit (a former coworker works as a nurse there), and I know a few others who have worked in this unit. I originally contacted the CVICU manager months ago regarding shadowing, as well as a possible PCT position, but at the time there was not an opening. She explained that this isn't a normal position, and they already had a PCT employed at that time. I've been told they will occasionally hire a PCT who is in nursing school and about to graduate; sort of as a way to get a foot in the door for an RN job (this is what my former coworker did before graduating nursing school). I reached out to the manager again recently and she said that a few people were interested in a PCT position, and said that she would be posting one soon.  

Not sure what type of hours this position would be, and I currently work full time. I have a feeling it will be PRN, which may be problematic, as I don't think I can continue working full time and pick up extra while in nursing school.

Typically, how difficult is it to get into CVICU as a new grad? Would the PCT position benefit me that much, or is it reasonable to assume that I could get a job as a new grad without having already worked in the unit?

Would being a PCT in the CVICU make me more successful and less anxious as a new grad in the unit as opposed to having no experience in CVICU? From what I understand, there is very little patient care provided by the PCT, so not sure how much it would help me. 

I'm just a little worried about possibly losing full-time hours (including benefits), as well as changing things up while in school.

I know there are a lot of unknown variables here, but just trying to seek some advice from people who have been through this or something similar. I appreciate any input. Thanks!

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12 Followers; 3,807 Posts; 28,685 Profile Views

If your information is reliable that they may hire one or more of their PCTs as RNs after graduation, that's a big deal...since that's where you want to go.

35 minutes ago, jeebanks93 said:

From what I understand, there is very little patient care provided by the PCT

I don't work in an ICU but I'm not sure how that can be true (?) -- that's exactly what PCTs do. Besides, you will become familiar with the environment; in this case possibly the exact environment in which you would be seeking an RN position. You'll get your eyes on many different types of equipment and patient conditions, learn something about the routines and, perhaps most importantly, begin to establish a rapport with the nursing staff.

I love the ED, but it's worth at least applying to work as a PCT in the unit you're interested in for your future.

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I've just heard it's limited to blood sugars, helping turn/clean, and maybe help ambulating. I've heard it's mostly stocking/gathering supplies on the unit. I guess in comparison to what I do in the ER, it's just a lot less patient care. And I'm getting this from people I know who have worked in ICUs within my hospital system.

And I'm not sure how much I would be exposed to the actual nursing aspects of the job, not sure how much it would help me learn prior to beginning as a nurse. 

But I do see how it would be beneficial with learning the ins/outs of the unit and getting to know the staff/making an impression. I do think it would be beneficial, just trying to weigh the pros/cons of switching up jobs at this point and possibly losing FT hours/benefits, if it's not going to help me THAT much.

I appreciate your input! I will definitely apply and see where it goes. Thank you!

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10 hours ago, JEE93 said:

I do think it would be beneficial, just trying to weigh the pros/cons of switching up jobs at this point and possibly losing FT hours/benefits, if it's not going to help me THAT much.

I see what you mean about losing FT work, etc.

Maybe your contacts can help further clarify the typical hiring practices. If nearly all of the people who end up getting hired there as RNs already have some kind of connection (such as already being employed there) then it's a harder decision. You do have good hospital experience even without this, so that's a plus. Maybe not necessary to make a huge change unless you hear through the grapevine that it's hard to get in there as a new RN unless you're already working there.

Good luck with the last semester of school. Things will work out!

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adventure_rn is a BSN and specializes in NICU, PICU.

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On 12/18/2019 at 8:58 AM, JEE93 said:

Typically, how difficult is it to get into CVICU as a new grad? Would the PCT position benefit me that much, or is it reasonable to assume that I could get a job as a new grad without having already worked in the unit?

The answer to this question will depend on your job market, but you'd have a huge advantage if you accept the PCT job. Although it's possible, I definitely wouldn't assume that you could get hired into the CVICU without the PCT job. New grads do get hired into CVICUs, but the jobs are extremely competitive.

If you don't accept the PCT job, you'll be competing against whoever does take the job. In addition, you'll likely be at a disadvantage compared to other new grads who are currently employed by that hospital system as PCTs. Hospitals love hiring internal applicants; they're way cheaper to onboard, and managers appreciate that they can get an honest review of the applicant from their current boss. Some hospitals will only consider external applicants after they've gone through their internal applicant pool; therefore, the jobs in CVICU may fill up before your application is even considered, or you may find yourself competing for one or two slots against dozens of other applicants. It's also possible that you'll be competing against students who have completed clinical rotations or capstones on that unit who may be more competitive than you.

IMO, it's much more realistic to hope that you'll get a job in any specialty ICU as a new grad, and less realistic if you're pinning your hopes on this one specific specialty.

On 12/18/2019 at 8:58 AM, JEE93 said:

Would being a PCT in the CVICU make me more successful and less anxious as a new grad in the unit as opposed to having no experience in CVICU? From what I understand, there is very little patient care provided by the PCT, so not sure how much it would help me.

It's true, PCTs in ICU perform relatively little actual patient care compared to the floors. The patients in ICU are so unstable that many tasks which would usually be performed by PCTs are performed by RNs instead. That's part of the reason that ICUs don't hire many PCTs, and that ICU PCT jobs are tough to come by. You might be called to assist with turning or bathing, but you're probably not going to do it solo out of concern that the patient won't tolerate it and will suddenly crump. You'll likely spend a lot more time doing 'housekeeping' tasks like stocking than you're used to.

Even so, I still think that the experience is beneficial. The primary benefit is honestly the likelihood of getting hired as a new grad. Beyond that, the next greatest benefit is that you'll have time to become more comfortable with the people, layout, and workflow of the unit. Being a new grad nurse is stressful enough, especially in the ICU. It's way less stressful if you already know where everything is, who the providers are, how the phones work, who to ask for help when you need it, etc. In my experience, new grads with prior experience on the unit (as techs or students) have much more comfortable transitions during orientation.

In addition, even though you won't be doing a ton as a PCT, you can still get exposure to how things are done in the ICU. You may not have a hands-on role during emergencies like ECMO deployment, but there's a ton that you can learn from being present. I'd think of it kind of like an extended shadowing experience. This is especially true if you demonstrate to your coworkers that you're willing to learn. When I know I've got students on the unit (including techs who are students), I always try to pull them over if I've got an interesting learning opportunity, like a cool assessment finding.

On 12/18/2019 at 8:58 AM, JEE93 said:

Not sure what type of hours this position would be, and I currently work full time. I have a feeling it will be PRN, which may be problematic, as I don't think I can continue working full time and pick up extra while in nursing school.

That does seem like a huge red flag to me. I think that the absolute worst thing you could do is to bite off more than you can chew and risk doing poorly in your classes and/or making a bad impression on your managers (especially this new manager who barely knows you). If you start this new job and quit soon after orientation because it's too much, you may not get a second chance if you applied again as a new grad (and honestly, it could hurt your chances of applying for any other ICU jobs in that entire hospital system).

Another thing to consider is that if you leave your current ED job, you'd be losing the 'internal applicant' advantage that you'd have to ICUs in your current hospital system. Not sure if that matters to you, but it is something to think about.

Best of luck in your decision.

Edited by adventure_rn

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ICUman specializes in Cardiac Cath Lab.

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As someone who has worked as a tech in both CVICU and ER, I say go CVICU. It's way cooler, and you learn a ton. Shoe in as a new grad and that much closer to CRNA school. 

If you want anesthesia school, skip ER.

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Thanks everyone for your advice, I really appreciate it! Sorry I've been absent for a little while. I have been picking up a lot of extra shifts and I have recently been sick. 

Just saw that the position was posted on New Year's Eve, but it is actually a position in the CCU. The manager is over both the CCU and CVICU at this hospital, and the units are like sister units. They are right beside each other and connected. Nurses from CV float to CCU when coverage is needed. The job was also posted as PRN

So really not sure what to do at this point. I could apply and if I was offered the job, go part time in the ED to maintain my benefits, however, it would cost me more to do this. And I would really only be able to do one day per week in CCU.

As the job isn't in the exact unit I was hoping for, I'm not sure how helpful it would be. However, with the manager being the same manager for CV, I still might have a chance at an RN job in CV after graduation if I have worked for her in CCU.

Honestly, the fact that the job is PRN makes me want to just stay where I am. I don't know if I mentioned this earlier, but I am married with a child, so I need to keep my insurance, which is why I'm so unwilling to give up a FT position. However, I really don't want to make myself look bad with the CVICU/CCU manager by not applying when I directly emailed her to inquire about a position. I think I've gotten myself into a difficult position.

Thanks for your advice and encouragement! Just wanted to give an update.

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