A phlebotomist is a skilled health care worker that works alongside doctors and nurses upon completion of the full phlebotomy training. Phlebotomists work in a variety of settings, most commonly hospitals, health care clinics, and blood donation clinics. Phlebotomy technicians are classified by the United States Bureau of Labor under the group ‘Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians’. This group includes, but is not limited to, dental assistants, medical assistants, and pharmacy aids. The employment estimate for this group numbers over three hundred thousand health care workers.
What does a phlebotomist do? A phlebotomist draws blood from patients for analysis or transfusion. The most common method of blood collection is called a venipuncture. Phlebotomists do not analyze the samples, nor administer injections or medications. Following blood collection, phlebotomists must clearly label and document the specimens. Blood collection and record-keeping are the primary responsibilities of a phlebotomist, but a their duties are not limited to these activities.
Phlebotomists and patients are at risk of blood borne diseases and other communicable diseases and infections. Phlebotomists wear vinyl or latex gloves, face masks, head caps and gowns and must follow rigid safety standards to ensure the safety of themselves and their patients. The tools and equipment used by phlebotomists also require special handling and disposal methods. A thorough understanding of procedure and safety standards is demonstrated through recognized certification. Four major certifying agencies offer phlebotomy certification in the United States. However, certification is not required as a practicing phlebotomist, except in the states of Louisiana and California.
Phlebotomists work with a range of patients, from infants to the elderly. Many people are uncomfortable having blood drawn and it is the job of the phlebotomist to put the patient at ease. Phlebotomists are in direct communication with both patients and doctors so it is to the benefit of them to possess good interpersonal skills and to enjoy working with people. Phlebotomists are sometimes responsible for handling phone calls from patients and doctors, scheduling appointments, and delivering or picking up specimens.
Phlebotomists generally follow a standard work schedule so they typically work 40 hours across five days and may be required to work shifts. Phlebotomy does not demand large amounts of physical activity, such as heavy lifting, but some time is spent walking and standing. The exact salary of a phlebotomist varies across the states and specific location, but the average annual salary is reported as $26,710 per year.
How to become a phlebotomist varies, but generally, a high school education or equivalent is required to become one. Many programs are available through colleges and vocational schools; these programs prepare phlebotomists for all the responsibilities they may encounter on the job. Students receive both classroom and clinical instruction and in addition to blood collection and storage procedures, phlebotomy students are taught human anatomy and physiology, as well as first aid and CPR. Phlebotomy programs also prepare students for national certification exams. It is possible to qualify for certification exams without having graduated from a phlebotomy program. Non-graduates must have full-time experience working as a phlebotomist, usually one year of experience, and have successfully completed a set number of venipuncture procedures.