Medical technicians work closely with patients and serve on the front line in the health care industry. To become a medical technician, you must complete a formal course, which takes just a few weeks. The demand for medical technicians is high, but the pay is relatively low. However, med tech duties offer valuable entry-level experience if you plan to continue your education for a career in nursing.
Medical technicians, also called med techs, nursing aides and nursing assistants, work closely with nurses to provide quality care for patients. The med tech job description includes bathing and dressing patients, serving their meals and assisting them with toileting. Other med tech responsibilities require more skill, such as turning patients in their beds, transferring them between wheelchairs and beds, taking a patient’s blood pressure or temperature, and dispensing medications prepared by a nurse or pharmacist. Med techs also must accurately communicate details of a patient’s symptoms or condition with nurses and doctors.
Because medical facilities treat patients around the clock, med techs are scheduled to work day, night and weekend shifts, as well as holidays. Med tech duties require them to spend many hours on their feet and perform rigorous physical activities such as lifting patients, which sometimes leads to injuries. The nature of the job also subjects med techs to contagious illnesses.
To become a med tech, you must complete an education program approved by your state. Technical schools, community colleges and the American Red Cross offer med tech training, which typically takes about eight weeks to complete. For example, Meceola Tech in Big Rapids, Michigan, offers a med tech course that requires you to complete 120 hours of coursework that includes classroom instruction and clinical work. The course includes training in human interaction, bathing and skin care, laboratory tasks, and techniques used in medical emergencies such as choking, seizures and bleeding. Prerequisites for the course include a background check, hepatitis B vaccination and a tuberculosis test. Meceola’s med tech course costs less than $1,500.
After you complete your state-approved med tech course, you can take the certified nursing assistant (CNA) exam. Some states require you to take and pass the exam before you can work in a medical facility. To become a CNA med tech, you may have to pass a background check. Some states require you to take continuing education courses every few years or require additional certification to perform tasks such as dispensing medications.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that U.S. medical facilities employed about 1.5 million med techs in 2016. About 40 percent of med techs work in nursing homes, while around 26 percent serve in hospitals. Other employers include assisted living communities, home health care companies and government medical facilities.
Years of Experience & Salary
Other than completing the required education and certifications in your state, experience has little effect on your earnings. In 2017, med techs earned a median income of around $27,500. The median income is the figure at which half of all med techs earned more, and half earned less. Med techs working at government health care facilities took home the highest income, nearly $33,000 annually, while those working at assisted living communities earned a little under $26,000.
Job Growth Trend
The aging baby-boomer population may increase the need for many types of health care personnel. The BLS projects an 11 percent job growth increase in med tech jobs through 2026, which is faster than the average for all occupations.
However, the job outlook for med techs may depend on the outcome of current health care political battles. If Congress cuts funding to programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, employment opportunities may shift away from nursing home jobs to home health care positions. If you are considering a job in the health care industry, research the ways in which policy changes may affect your career.