The phlebotomist, also known as a phlebotomy technician, draws blood from patients. These individuals primarily work in labs, but some work in private practices, with the sole focus of obtaining blood samples from patients for testing purposes. Other phlebotomy techs will work at blood donation centers or blood banks; however, these techs are typically required to have extensive work experience.
A Career in Phlebotomy
While the phlebotomy tech’s responsibilities tend to vary from employer to employer, they will usually handle the same basic job duties. They’re often the only contact a patient will have with the lab, so they’ll need to explain the procedure to patients and answer any questions they may have.
Before they draw blood, they will confirm the patient’s identity, and take their vital signs if necessary. Depending on the reason for the blood draw, the phlebotomist will either insert a needle into the patient’s arm or prick their finger. The tech will then label each specimen container and store the sample or forward it to the lab for testing. It’s also the tech’s responsibility to ensure that all types of biohazardous materials such as needles, gauze, and other supplies, are properly disposed of.
Depending on the position, a phlebotomist may also need to deal with other types of bodily fluids aside from blood. Like when obtaining blood samples, the phlebotomy tech must carefully label every sample and ensure it matches the patient’s information.
In addition to obtaining blood samples, the tech may be required to analyze the blood sample by performing microbiological tests, chemical tests, or other kinds of appropriate testing.
If you’ve decided on a career as a phlebotomist, you’ll also need good communication skills. Additionally, precision, accuracy and the ability to work under pressure and time constraints are also part of the job.
Certificate Programs in Phlebotomy
Most phlebotomists will obtain their skills through an accredited training program. These phlebotomy programs vary in length, but there are programs available that can be completed in three to six months. The topics covered include basic blood draw techniques, human pathology, and medical terminology.
Other required courses include anatomy, venipuncture, centrifuging and processing, and urinalysis.
Most of these training programs provide the aspiring phlebotomist with hands-on training. Some courses require students to obtain first aid and CPR certification. These programs can be found at hospitals, community colleges, or vocational schools.
Do Degree Programs in Phlebotomy Exist?
Associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in phlebotomy do exist, but they’re not very common. In fact, bachelor’s degree programs are now almost non-existent.
The associate’s degree program for phlebotomists can be completed in just two years, or one and a half years via an accelerated program. The associate’s degree program will provide a more in-depth look at the field of phlebotomy. It will also require students to take general education courses and features a much longer clinical training program. Of course, a degree in this field will increase your earning potential and can qualify you for lead positions in hospitals and labs.
More often, students will choose the certificate program simply because many accredited programs can be completed in just a few months.
Hands-On Training Component
Like most healthcare positions, training in this field is very hands-on. In the clinical portion of the class, students will first learn about the different blood draw procedures, starting off with venipuncture. Students will practice on fake arms, learning how to locate veins and how to correctly insert the needle. Once the class progresses, students will then practice venipuncture on fellow students. This can be a very intimidating portion of the program, but it’s designed to help students become more comfortable working closely with patients and with the blood draw procedure in general.
During the clinical portion, students will perform blood draws on real patients, under the direct supervision of a certified phlebotomist. This is a crucial and very challenging portion of the program, but after you’ve successfully completed it you’ll find that you’re very comfortable performing your duties and interacting with patients, which is one of the main goals of clinical work.
Phlebotomy training programs are also available online. However, programs that take place solely online do not exist for this career. You can take many of the required classes online, which will give your schedule some much-needed flexibility, but you’ll need to attend on-campus courses for the hands-on training portion. Of course, there’s also the clinical portion which will take place at a local hospital or clinic.
Not all states will require certification or licensure for this field, while others may require both. As an example, California requires phlebotomy techs to obtain both licensure and certification in order to be eligible for employment in that state. However, even if your state doesn’t require certification, we still recommend obtaining it. Certification can increase earning potential and can even make you more attractive to a potential employer. Organizations such as the National Phlebotomy Association and the American Society for Clinical Pathology both offer mandatory and voluntary certification for this field.
If you want to learn more about the requirements for the certified phlebotomy technician, you can find in-depth information here.
Is Phlebotomy Right for Me?
Phlebotomy is another type of healthcare position that has its limits when it comes to advancing in the medical field. While it offers job security, a decent annual salary, and great benefits, aside from a management position, there are really no advancement opportunities available.
In fact, like CNAs, and MAs, phlebotomy technicians often first earn an education in this field in order to financially support themselves as they continue to pursue their education.
Additionally, many nurses and CNAs enter a phlebotomy training program in order to earn a new skill and make themselves more marketable to potential employers while also boosting their income potential.
Job Outlook for Phlebotomy Techs
The job outlook for phlebotomists and other similar positions in the healthcare field are expected to grow by as much as fifteen percent in the next three years. The median annual salary for techs ranges from $32,000 to $48,000, depending on education, training, experience, and additional certifications.