A phlebotomy license allows you to practice drawing blood for specimen analysis or transfusions. Phlebotomists are skilled healthcare workers that are responsible for both the safety of their patients and themselves. Surprisingly, certification is not required throughout the United States. Only Louisiana and California legally require certification of practicing phlebotomist.
Generally, only one level of phlebotomist certification is available. In California, there are three tiers of phlebotomy certification. Limited phlebotomists are authorized only to perform skin puncture blood collection. The second level of certification is the Certified Phlebotomy Technician I. These phlebotomists are authorized only to perform venipuncture and skin puncture collection. The third and final level of certification, Certified Phlebotomy Technician II, is authorized to perform venipuncture, skin and arterial punctures.
Completing a phlebotomy program does not equal certification. Many programs do not offer certification upon graduation. Some programs partner with certifying agencies to offer certification exams upon completion of the program. Certified graduates have successfully completed both the phlebotomy program and certification exam. Programs that offer certification have been approved or accredited nationally or by the state.
Accredited programs offer both classroom and clinical instruction and meet the standards set by the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI). One organization responsible for accrediting phlebotomy programs is the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). Another organization is the National Phlebotomy Association (NPA). When selecting a phlebotomy program, look for one that is accredited and offers certification. The NAACLS has a database of accredited programs on their website. The database is searchable by state and provides contact information for each school.
Although not required, the opportunity for certification is available to all phlebotomists. Some employers may prefer to hire only certified phlebotomists. Therefore, having certification gives less experienced phlebotomists an advantage when finding employment. Certification conveys that the phlebotomist is knowledgeable of the procedure and safety standards set by the CLSI.
There are five major agencies which offer nationally recognized certification. Applications to write the certification exams can be found on the agencies’ websites and can be submitted online. The American Certification Agency (ACA) for Healthcare Professionals offers two types of phlebotomy certification: phlebotomy technician and phlebotomy instructor. The American Medical Technologists (AMT) offers certification of phlebotomy technicians. The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) has two types of certification available to phlebotomists: phlebotomy technician and donor phlebotomist. The fourth agency, the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) certifies phlebotomy technicians. Finally, the National Phlebotomy Association (NPA) certifies phlebotomists and accredits phlebotomy training programs.
Though similar, the requirements of each certifying agency vary. There are several routes one can take to be eligible to write the certification exam. The two most common routes are completion of an accredited phlebotomy program and hands-on experience as a phlebotomist. Across agencies, graduation of an accredited or approved phlebotomy program is the least complicated route. Applicants who have not completed a phlebotomy program are required to submit documented proof of full-time experience (usually a one year time period) and successful blood collections. The required number of blood collections is variable between agencies.