A phlebotomist or phlebotomy technician is a healthcare professional that is trained to draw and collect blood from patients and blood donors in order to perform blood tests, collect samples, perform transfusions and collect blood for donations.
In addition to collecting blood a phlebotomist may also collect urine and stool samples in order to check them for blood.
As a phlebotomist you’ll not only be responsible for drawing blood, you’ll also be responsible for educating patients on the procedure, ensuring their safety and following proper guidelines, rules and procedures.
Phlebotomists are often trained in their profession with little or no medical experience, however other healthcare professionals such as nurses, doctors and laboratory scientists may also perform some of the duties of a phlebotomist as part of their job role.
How to become a phlebotomist
Those who are interested in starting a career as a phlebotomist are generally required to have either a diploma or GED before they are able to gain acceptance into a phlebotomy program.
In most states those who are applying for the phlebotomy program must be 18 years of age or older, however this may vary in other countries.
Once you have obtained your diploma or GED you may enroll in a phlebotomy training program offered at a local college or technical school.
Qualified phlebotomy programs are generally less than a year long with many programs offering 5 – 9 week classes depending on the students availability.
Note: It is important to do some research before applying for a phlebotomy program in order to ensure that you are choosing a good, qualified college or technician school.
While in phlebotomy training students will learn how to draw blood through venipuncture, skin puncture and arterial collection, perform CPR and First Aid, perform urinalysis, properly label and manage blood samples, bags and other collection containers, understand infection control procedures and policies, gather and collect patient information, learn about important legal issues and learn how to properly use and dispose of medical equipment.
Aside from classroom studies students will also learn hands on skills at a local hospital, lab or healthcare facility in order to ensure that students are receiving adequate training.
During this time students will learn and be tested on skin puncturing, drawing and managing blood and proper lab safety among other essential topics.
Upon successful competition of the program students may take the phlebotomy technician certification exam through an organization such as the American Society for Clinical Pathology in order to become officially certified, however you can learn more about where to take the certification exam and what a particular organization may require before taking the exam from the college or technical school you are attending.
Depending on the state you live in some states may require you to to be licensed before you can legally work as a phlebotomy technician.
Even if you are not required to be certified/licensed in the state you are working in some employers may prefer to hire phlebotomists that have obtained certification over those who have not.
What it takes to be a phlebotomist
As a phlebotomist you may end up working with a variety of patients in a number of different healthcare settings such as a clinic, doctors office, hospital, blood bank or medical lab.
Not only will you be responsible for drawing blood, you’ll also be responsible for your interactions with the patients you’re serving.
Educating your patients on the process of how you will draw their blood, managing medical equipment, gathering and maintaining patient information, following strict rules, maintaining safety and sanitary procedures and ensuring the patients/donors safety while drawing their blood are extremely important.
Having excellent hand-eye coordination, basic technical training and being able to effectively communicate with other members of your medical team are also vital skills you need to possess in the workplace.
As a phlebotomist you’ll have to quickly become comfortable about dealing with blood and other bodily fluids that you’ll find yourself interacting with on a regular basis.
If you’re serious about becoming a phlebotomist and you have the personality and patience required to do a good job then this may be an excellent career choice or starting point for entry into the healthcare profession.