Phlebotomy is a field that falls under the category of Allied Health, an essential part of any hospital or medical practice. Use this guide to learn more about phlebotomists, working in the field and more career details about phlebotomy.
What Does a Phlebotomist Do?
Phlebotomists draw blood from patients for transfusions or for laboratory testing. Doctors use these blood samples in order to provide patients with diagnoses about a wide range of diseases, as well as to gauge the overall health of their patients.
Phlebotomists also work with blood banks to collect a city or town's supply of whole blood and plasma to be used for transfusions in surgeries. Phlebotomists typically work in hospitals, laboratories, blood banks, medical clinics, assisted living health care facilities, hospices, research labs and public health clinics.
Phlebotomists need a variety of skills, including:
- The ability to quickly and accurately find a vein for drawing blood
- Care and speed in inserting needles
- Ability to draw a sterile blood sample
- Professional medical demeanor
- Attention to detail for accurate record keeping
Phlebotomy, also called venipuncture, is practiced by trained professionals under the supervision of a licensed physician or supervising medical practitioner. Phlebotomists follow a well-established set of medical protocols to ensure each patient receives safe care and attention. Phlebotomists are licensed by the National Phlebotomy Association.
What Are the Steps to Becoming a Phlebotomist?
Most clinical laboratory technologist and technician jobs require job seekers to have at least a bachelor's degree from a four-year college or university or to complete a medical technician program from an accredited vocational school. The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences accredits about 60 programs in phlebotomy and medical assisting, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). There are other accrediting bodies, such as the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools and the National Phlebotomy Association.
Certain medical and clinical technician positions are available to people who hold only an associate degree. Very few phlebotomists learn their skills through on-the-job training. Licensure requirements vary from state to state, the BLS reports. Before enrolling in a course that teaches phlebotomy skills, you should inquire about the program's accreditation status and make sure it matches with your state's health department or occupational board requirements.
Coursework in phlebotomy programs typically include of the following classes:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Blood and cell composition
- Lab safety and procedures
- Blood sampling techniques
You'll find most phlebotomy training programs at vocational or online schools. Things to look for in a phlebotomy training program include how long the coursework lasts, accreditation and how much the program costs. Some phlebotomy programs may qualify for federal financial aid, which can be a big help for students in need.
As an example, phlebotomy training programs may offer courses in basic and advanced phlebotomy, advanced infectious diseases, infection control, anatomy and medical terminology. Other aspects of classroom work may include: bio-hazards techniques; types of collection equipment; waste disposal; post-puncture care; and transport, processing and storage of blood samples.
Phlebotomy training programs are important because they teach students the basics of drawing blood as well as basic concepts of communication with patients, stress management and professional ethical behavior. Just as important, phlebotomy classes teach students the legal implications of phlebotomy along with legal issues that pertain to blood collection.
How You Can Stand Out as a Phlebotomist
Phlebotomists should be good at the physical sciences and not squeamish at the sight of blood. They must also be good communicators, both with their patients and with doctors or physicians. Phlebotomists in public health clinics and blood donation centers must be comfortable asking donors personal questions such as travel destinations during the past decade, sexual history and other sensitive, confidential issues.
Some phlebotomists work in laboratory settings processing blood draws, so they must be proficient with technical equipment such as centrifuges and automated readout equipment. The field of phlebotomy has become much more automated, the BLS reports, so to become a great phlebotomist you should be comfortable with complex computer equipment. Phlebotomists must also keep exacting records of their work, so being detail oriented is a must.
Salary.com reports that phlebotomists earned close to $30,000 per year on average in December 2010. BLS reports that medical and clinical laboratory technicians, which include phlebotomists, earned median salaries of $17.32 in 2009, but the top 10 percent of technicians--those with the most responsibility and experience--earned more than $55,000 annually. The amount of responsibility given to phlebotomists largely depends upon the professionalism, experience and education they possess.
Resources for Phlebotomists:
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians
- National Phlebotomy Association (NPA)
- National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)
- Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
- Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)