Patient Care Assistant program at PTC


ST. PETERSBURG — For those who possess a caring nature, strong interaction skills and the indispensable trait of compassion, the St. Pete campus of Pinellas Technical College (PTC) offers its Patient Care Assistant program to start students on the path of this rewarding field.

The program, which takes about three months to complete, includes courses in basic healthcare, nursing aide, home health aide and patient care assistant. Students initially learn basic care and safety procedures before moving on to hands on work.

Judy Prime-Sayles

Judy Prime-Sayles

“The beginning part is the nursing assistance theory,” explained instructor Judy Prime-Sayles, “then they go to nursing assistance clinical, where we go out to the nursing home. They learn about all the skills that they have to do—making beds, doings baths—anything they’d be required to know to be a nursing assistant.”

The Nursing Aide and Orderly course covers basic patient care, care of the elderly patient, nutrition and restorative activities while the Advanced Home Health Aide course includes safety in the house and household management as it pertains to the infirmed and elderly. When a student completes this portion of the program, they will receive certification in Home Health Aide.

In the Patient Care Assistant course, the students put their skills to use by actually assisting in a hospital.

“We generally go to Palms of Pasadena Hospital,” Prime-Sayles said, “and the students get an idea of what it’s like to work in a hospital setting. It’s a very different pace, with different responsibilities than a nursing home. It’s a lot more critical thinking and a lot faster paced.”

Prime-Sayles, who has been a teacher at PTC for five years, said that the students not only gain valuable experience, but once they graduate they can list their time in area nursing homes and hospitals on their resume.

“When they get done they have what we call a portfolio that we put together for them that has all their certificates,” she said. “They get a certificate for Alzheimer’s, for HIV and AIDS, we have a firefighter that comes in and teaches CPR and first aid for two full days, we have a person from CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse) that comes in and certifies the students in domestic violence. There are a lot of speakers throughout the program. If there’s someone special who we want to come in, they come in and talk to us!”

She said the program spends considerable time on resumes, which are included in a student’s portfolio.

“The portfolio has everything that they need to go to work immediately,” she stated.

When students complete the program, PTC helps to prepare them for CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) testing.

“Once they get done with the program we set their names in Prometric that schedules them to test,” Prime-Sayles said. “Two RNs (registered nurses) come in and test the students for a written and skills test, where both RNs are observing them.”

Upon passing, students receive licensing by the Florida Board of Nursing that entitles them to go to work for nursing homes or hospitals as certified nursing assistants, Prime-Sayles said.

The Patient Care Assistant program attracts students of various ages, from recent high school grads to people in their 50s and even 60s who are looking for a life change.

“I had a 50 year old that worked in the airlines forever, and he just wanted to do something different!” Prime-Sayles said.

She explained that is it a good field to get into, as there is a need for nursing assistants year round and many facilities are looking to hire new workers.

“There’s always a need!” she asserted. “Especially since the baby boomers are reaching older ages, these people really need help in the nursing field! Just this week I’ve had three different nursing homes call me asking for students.

Above all, the program’s students are passionate about entering a field in which they have the opportunity to help people, Prime-Sayles said.

“They soak up everything we want to teach them,” she said. “They ask questions, they do projects so there is all kinds of participation. They learn from each other, I learn from them. It’s a really good program. If you’re thinking about going into nursing, this is the place to be!”

If you’re interested in exploring this career path, please visit or call 727-893-2500. Financial aid is available. See ad below.

To reach Frank Drouzas, email

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