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Health Science | National Healthcareer Association (NHA) | NHA CPCT/A

What Is the NHA CPCT/A Exam & How Do You Prepare Students for It?

August 7th, 2020 | 7 min. read

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The NHA CPCT/A exam is an industry certification developed by the National Healthcareer Association to measure competency of skills and knowledge needed to become a certified patient care technician or assistant.

When a student passes the exam, they earn a certification designating that they can work in a healthcare facility as a patient care technician or assistant (CPCT/A).

So, if your students want to become patient care technicians or assistants, they’ll need this certification!

But how can you help your students pass the test?

On this page we’ll dive into how the assessment is structured and how you can prepare students for success using Patient Care Technician curriculum.

But before we get into the details, it’s important to have a little background on the National Healthcareer Association since they provide the test!

How To Prep Your Students for the NHA Patient Care Technician Certification Exam

What Is the National Healthcareer Association?


The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) is a well-known provider of health science certifications, used by thousands of programs nationwide.

NHA’s mission is “empowering people to access a better future.” This encompasses both improving the quality of patient care and giving people opportunities to become healthcare professionals.

The NHA accomplishes this mission by developing industry certifications for eight specific healthcare careers:

  • Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS)
  • Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)
  • Electronic Health Record Specialist (CEHRS)
  • EKG Technician (CET)
  • Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA)
  • Patient Care Technician/Assistant (CPCT/A)
  • Pharmacy Technician (CPhT)
  • Phlebotomy Technician (CPT)

Since its founding in 1989, the NHA has awarded more than 750,000 healthcare certifications.

Now that you know a bit about NHA, let’s get into the details of the patient care technician certification exam!

How Is the NHA CPCT/A Exam Structured?


The NHA CPCT/A exam is made up of 100 questions (plus 20 pretest questions that are used to gather data).

Test questions fall into five “domains,” or main healthcare topics:

  • Patient Care (45%)
  • Compliance, Safety, and Professional Responsibility (20%)
  • Infection Control (11%)
  • Phlebotomy (14%)
  • EKG (10%)


Each of the domains has a varying number of subtopics that pertain to knowledge and skills that a patient care technician should have.

In addition, each subtopic has further detail called “supporting knowledge,” which goes more in-depth about the information students need to know.

Domain 1 – Patient Care

The Patient Care domain includes 40 subtopics related to basic patient care, emotional support, using different types of equipment, recording vital signs, and more.

This is the largest portion of the test plan as it includes most of the day-to-day tasks a person completes as a patient care technician or assistant.

Domain 2 – Compliance, Safety, and Professional Responsibility

The Compliance, Safety, and Professional Responsibility domain has 13 subtopics and involves following OSHA guidelines, adhering to HIPAA regulations, understanding medical ethics, and working within the defined scope of their role.

These requirements are critical to work in any healthcare setting, and someone could cause substantial problems for patients and the healthcare provider in the event they ignore these responsibilities.

Domain 3 – Infection Control

The Infection Control domain is made of 6 subtopics, including CDC standards, transmission-based precautions, sterile techniques, and aseptic techniques.

Infection control practices are crucial for anyone working in a healthcare facility. It’s especially important for patient care technicians, as they have direct contact with many patients and medical equipment on a daily basis.

Domain 4 – Phlebotomy

The Phlebotomy domain has 14 subtopics, including tasks like performing venipuncture, performing blood culture collections, transporting blood samples, and adhering to the chain of custody guidelines.

Though most healthcare facilities have phlebotomists and phlebotomy technicians, in some cases a patient care technician may need to complete some of the tasks listed.

Domain 5 – EKG

The EKG domain features 9 subtopics and includes applying electrodes on patients, recognizing dysrhythmias, verifying EKG machine paper speed, and maintaining EKG equipment.

This domain is the least-weighted due to the fact that patient care technicians need minimal skills and knowledge surrounding EKGs since most healthcare facilities have dedicated EKG technicians.

Overall, the test plan provided by the NHA includes all of the details on what your students will need to know for success on the exam!

On test day, students have two hours to complete the assessment. Testing can occur either at your school or at a designated testing center.

In most cases, students take the exam via an online portal, but in some cases a paper-based test is given.

After testing is over, the NHA posts certification results on the students’ individual online accounts within two days. They also print paper certifications that they mail to each student within two weeks.

Now you know the ins-and-outs of the actual assessment, there’s one question left to be answered.

How do you prepare your students for the NHA CPCT/A exam?

How Do You Prepare Students for the NHA CPCT/A Exam?


There are many options out there for preparing students for certification exams, and it can be overwhelming to figure out the best one for you and you students.

Many instructors gravitate towards test prep materials. The NHA has a handful of helpful resources like study guides and practice exams.

But each of these resources is an additional cost per student on top of the cost of the exam ($155)!

If you’ve got the means to pay for these resources, go for it!

However, those test prep materials won’t actually help you teach the content in your classroom.

After all, no teacher wants to “teach to the test” -- especially since your students will need so much more than just a certification to have successful careers as patient care technicians!

One common option is to use patient care technician textbook as your main instructional material. Textbooks are great resources, packed full of information to help you build a patient care technician curriculum.

The biggest downsides of using a textbook for exam prep is the fact that it quickly becomes outdated and it costs so much. The healthcare industry is always changing, and the NHA makes updates to the test plans on a regular basis (the most recent change was in 2019)!

Because of this, many health science instructors have switched to a system that stays current while preparing students for the CPCT/A certification!

Preparing Students for the NHA CPCT/A Exam with HealthCenter21


Health science instructors across the country use the HealthCenter21 digital curriculum system to teach their students and prepare them for the NHA CPCT/A exam.

HealthCenter21 is built to empower you to help your students succeed in the classroom, on certification exams, and in their careers as patient care technicians.

This is made possible with thousands of ready-to-use instructional resources, classroom management tools, assessment options, student tracking features, and more.

In addition, we’ve mapped the curriculum content to the NHA CPCT/A test plan so you can see exactly how HealthCenter21 will help you and your students!

Click below to download the NHA CPCT/A certification success guide!

Download the National Health Science Assessment Guide