By Jessica Park
In 2016, Alivia Forck had been working at Boone Hospital Center as a housekeeper on the Orthopaedic Specialties Unit when a charge nurse encouraged her to apply for the hospital’s Patient Care Tech training program.
“I thought I wanted a nursing career, but I wanted to climb the ladder slowly,” Alivia says. The program, which provides paid training required to be a patient care tech, or PCT, appealed to her as an opportunity to start her career in patient care at Boone Hospital.
“There are several ways to be a PCT. You can go to CNA school and get a license. You can go to nursing school and once you’ve finished your fundamentals class, you can work as a PCT. Or, you can complete a hospital-based training program,” explains Velvet Meers, MSN, RN-BC, a nurse, clinical practice educator and program instructor.
PCTs help patients with their basic needs; checking vital signs, assisting with eating, dressing, bathing, grooming and helping them walk. Hospitals face a shortage of qualified patient care techs, which in turn affects nurses.
“PCTs are the nurse’s eyes and ears because they spend the most time with a patient,” Velvet says. “Really, they are the foundation of patient care for the hospital. When a nurse has an excellent PCT working with them, it makes the day so much smoother.”
Boone Hospital currently offers three to four PCT trainee programs each year, which are open to current and prospective employees. Group sizes vary – the largest cohort included 14 trainees. The program attracts high school grads to people with degrees in other fields.
The 6-week program begins with hands-on classroom education. In the hospital’s skills lab, PCT trainees practice CPR on manikins or take their classmates’ blood pressure. Classroom training is followed by a clinical practicum on a unit. Trainees are supervised by an experienced PCT and registered nurse. During their practicum, the trainees meet with instructors at the end of each day to discuss their experiences and ask questions. Clinical educators from the program also round units to check in on everyone.
“We want them to be successful, and we’re invested in them,” Velvet explains. “It’s important they know someone has their back while they’re learning.”
Alivia says she definitely felt supported: “I was very scared at first, but everyone was so awesome at explaining and answering my questions. The instructors were very kind and patient. Even when we were in our clinicals, they checked on us every day to make sure we felt comfortable.”
“Everyone is timid at first,” Velvet says. “But, as they learn more, I enjoy watching trainees build the confidence necessary to be a competent PCT.”
“At first, I was nervous about taking blood pressures – what if I were to hurt someone?” recalls PCT Delsha Sledge. She says that fear quickly evaporated, thanks to her instructors and preceptors. She also enjoyed being able to learn the job on-site at Boone Hospital.
Delsha’s role as a unit secretary for Orthopaedic Specialties piqued her interest in a medical career. Like Alivia, Delsha thought the PCT trainee program would be a good start and completed it in 2018. She’s currently in nursing school and says that her education and experience as a PCT helps with her classes. Alivia is also taking classes in preparation to earn a nursing degree.
“We’ve had many PCTs become nurses,” Velvet says. “We had a PCT on Oncology who decided they wanted to learn to be a telemetry tech. Boone’s all about growing their employees.”
Even as trainees, PCT program participants are also paid employees. Velvet says, “From day one, they’re learning our policies and our culture. This is a great way not to just start a health care career but to become part of the Boone Family and our high standards of patient care. We want them to be committed to quality care.”
Both Alivia and Delsha enjoy their current jobs as PCTs and encourage others interested in caring for patients at Boone Hospital to apply for upcoming PCT trainee programs.
“I was very happy I did it. I think everyone should be a PCT before they become a nurse!” Alivia says.
Delsha adds that not only has the program helped her with her career path, becoming a PCT has also been personally enriching. She says, “I’m more compassionate towards people now.”
Velvet enjoys hearing from PCTs who’ve completed the program. She says, “It’s exciting to see them grow and enjoy the satisfaction of helping someone else. It confirms that they made the right decision to come into health care.”
The PCT trainee program doesn’t just benefit its participants – with more trained PCTs on Boone Hospital Center’s staff, nurses and other clinicians have more support and, most importantly, patients benefit from their care.
Interested in being a PCT trainee? Apply online at boone.org/apply or contact Boone Hospital Human Resources at 573.815.3500 to learn more.