Phlebotomist

Phlebotomist

To be an effective phlebotomist, you must be a skilled technician, but you must also be good with people. If a person is afraid of needles, it is your job to assure them so that you can draw their blood.

Description of health care career information and the daily work:

The definition of phlebotomy is “to obtain blood from a vein.” While a phlebotomist requires good technical skills in order to do the job, he or she must also be able to work well with people. As a phlebotomist, your primary responsibility is to draw blood from patients or donors in a hospital, blood bank, or similar facility for analysis or other medical purposes. A phlebotomist keeps careful records of the blood tests, assembles equipment, such as tourniquets, needles, disposable containers for needles, blood collection devices, gauze, cotton, and alcohol according to requirements for specified tests or procedures. In drawing blood, the phlebotomist applies a tourniquet to the arm, locates an accessible vein, swabs the puncture area with antiseptic, and inserts the needle into the vein to draw blood into a collection tube or bag. The phlebotomist then withdraws the needle, applies treatment to the puncture site, and labels and stores the blood container for subsequent processing. Sometimes finger pricks are used to draw blood. As a phlebotomist, you verify or record the identity of a patient or donor and ensure that the blood sample is labeled correctly before being sent to the lab for tests. Phlebotomists enter patient and donor information into a computer database.

There is an equally important role that the phlebotomist plays in this job and that is to talk with patients and donors and make them as comfortable as possible for the procedure. So, while you may be interested in the job of phlebotomy because of the technical aspects, you must also enjoy interacting with all types of people. In some cases, you may need to calm them enough so that you can insert the needle into the vein and “talk them through” the entire procedure. If you worked in a blood bank, you may also conduct interviews, take vital signs, and draw and test blood samples to screen donors.

Phlebotomists work in hospitals, community clinics, private physician offices, and blood banks.

Education Requirements, Licensure/Certification:

Phlebotomy does not require a degree beyond High School (or GED) or a certification required to work. However, employers look more favorably on applicants who do obtain a certificate in phlebotomy. Certificate programs typically take one semester or a year to complete. Coursework generally includes anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, and infection control. You will learn how to properly puncture the vein to draw blood in a variety of situations and how to meet all safety requirements. Instruction on effective methods of patient communication and working with a computer database is also included. Many schools provide an internship or clinical experience as part of the course work. Schools with an Allied Health Department who do not offer a Phlebotomy Certificate Program may offer a program in Medical Assisting with phlebotomy or for Clinical laboratory technicians with phlebotomy as a component of the course. These courses can be certificate programs, but are often offered at community colleges as a two-year degree course.

Phlebotomists may take a national certification exam offered through one of a number of certification agencies, including The American Certification Agency (www.acacert.com), the American Society for Clinical Pathology (www.ascp.org), and the National Health Career Association (www.nhanow.com). Detailed information on certification and links can be found on www.phlebotomy.com.

High school courses that are useful for a career in phlebotomy are biology, chemistry and anatomy. Any type of customer service training or education is also useful in this profession due to the high amount of patient contact.

Wage/Salary:

The full-time average wage for phlebotomists is $21,944.

Career Path and/or Opportunities for Growth:

If you enjoy being part of the laboratory team as a phlebotomist, other careers in the clinical laboratory areas may be right for you with some more education and experience. With further education and experience, you could transfer your skills to other jobs such as EKG, Nursing Assistant, and Medical Assistant.

Phlebotomists are the front line of medicine and research. All major advances in the study of cancer, HIV, or heart disease start with a blood test. The need for phlebotomists exists in many areas of the healthcare field. However, some hospitals and other medical facilities may hire Medical Assistants, rather than phlebotomists because they carry out a broader range of duties.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pharmacy jobs are one of the top 10 fastest growing careers in healthcare.

Useful websites:

American Society for Clinical Pathology
www.ascp.org

The Center for Phlebotomy Education
www.phlebotomy.com