If you enjoy helping people and want to make a real difference in your community, a career in phlebotomy may be the right choice for you. The healthcare industry is the fastest growing industry in the world, which means there are plenty of opportunities for employment and growth in the field. And because phlebotomists do not require the same lengthy education that doctors and other healthcare professionals require, you can get started in your new career relatively quickly.
Phlebotomist Job Description
Phlebotomists are healthcare professionals that work in hospitals, blood banks, clinics and private physician practices. The phlebotomist’s primary role is to draw blood from patients through venal puncture. Phlebotomists are trained to locate veins
Phlebotomists with special training may also administer IV medications, give injections or set up an intravenous line. Specially trained phlebotomists, like those mentioned above, are almost always in high demand and command a much higher salary than their peers who aren’t specially trained. Phlebotomists report to the doctors or nurses on staff.
Aside from drawing blood, phlebotomists must also develop a relationship with patients. They explain what is being done, and they help alleviate some of the fear and anxiety associated with blood tests. A phlebotomist may ask the patient certain questions regarding their tests, and they must be equipped to deal with patients of all ages and health conditions.
Phlebotomists also have bookkeeping and data entry responsibilities, especially after performing tests. Safety is also of paramount importance in this field. Because there are a number of illnesses that can be spread through blood contact, phlebotomists are expected to adhere to exact, specific safety protocols when handling blood, needles and any other medical equipment.
In many cases, phlebotomists are expected to keep their work station clean and in good working order. Carts and blood areas should always be clean and stocked, and fresh supplies should always be readily available.
Other duties and tasks of phlebotomists include:
- Interviewing patients
- Pricking a patient’s finger to draw blood
- Taking vital signs
- Taking blood samples to screen blood bank donors
Phlebotomy Training & Education
In order to work as a phlebotomist, you must first receive the appropriate training and education from an accredited program. The good news is that a two or four year degree is not required for certification. In most cases, students can complete their training in one year or less.
The amount of time it takes to complete your education will depend on whether or not you will be obtaining special training. There are three degree levels in the phlebotomist field that can also help you further your career opportunities:
- Associate’s degree
- Bachelor’s degree
A certification program is the quickest way to enter the field. These training programs cover the basics of phlebotomy and will provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to get your foot in the door. A certification program will focus on:
Obtaining an associate’s degree will provide you with more career opportunities and improved phlebotomy skills. Eventually, your degree could land you a career as a laboratory technician or medical assistant.
If you decide to obtain your bachelor’s degree, you can take advantage of an even wider range of employment opportunities. Those with a four-year degree can expect to eventually take on a supervisory role in the field, or even a career as a medical technologist.
When you enroll in a phlebotomy training program, what classes do you expect to take? If you’re anticipating a clinical setting and continual hands-on practice, you may be in for a surprise. In addition to the actual technique of drawing blood, phlebotomists are also taught a number of other things as well.
Some phlebotomy courses that you can expect to take include:
- Laboratory safety
- Physiology and anatomy
- Blood sampling procedures
- Cell and blood composition
- Anatomy and physiology terminology
Courses in an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program may include more advanced techniques and subjects to further expand your phlebotomy skills and general education.
Earning Your Certification
If you’ve decided that certification is the best route for you, you should first take the time to research your state’s laws regarding phlebotomy. Not all states require phlebotomists to be licensed and registered. However, all states will have their own laws regarding the practice of phlebotomy.
States typically require a certain number of hours of completed class time, venipunctures, clinical practice and skin punctures before licensure can be granted.
And if you do decide to become a CPT (Certified Phlebotomy Technician), you will be required to take and pass an exam before you will be granted your certification. Before you can take this exam, you must first complete an approved phlebotomy training program. At this point in time, there is no way to obtain your phlebotomy certification online because hands-on, clinical experience is required.
There are quite a few certifying bodies, including:
National Healthcareer Association
In order to be eligible for the NHA CPT exam, you must meet the following requirements:
- Possess a high school diploma or GED
- Complete a phlebotomy training program or have at least one year of supervised work experience in the field.
- Evidence that you have completed at least 30 venipunctures and 10 capillary sticks on a live person.
National Phlebotomy Association
Unless you have prior experience in the field, the NPA will require you to complete a phlebotomy training program before you can become eligible for the certification exam. The program you complete must provide you with the following:
- 160 classroom hours
- Hands-on, clinical practical internship
- Venipuncture techniques
Association of Phlebotomy Technicians
In order to be eligible for the APT certification exam, you must:
- Complete an approved and accredited training program
- Complete 5 successful skin punctures
- Acquire 100 successful venipunctures. These venipunctures must be documented.
- Have a current APT membership
American Society for Clinical Pathology
ASCP requires aspiring phlebotomists to meet the following criteria in order to be eligible for their certification exam:
- 100 successful blood collections completed without aid
- 40 classroom hours
- A high school degree or equivalent
- 120 training hours (must be hands-on)
Classroom training must be robust and include a mixture of physiology, anatomy, specimen collection, specimen handling and processing, safety, and laboratory operations.
The ASCP also requires that your laboratory internship be performed at a lab that is regulated in accordance with the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment.
Preparing for the Exam
Not all certification exams are the same, and most certifying bodies have their own study materials for students to review. Successful students use a combination of phlebotomy books and a phlebotomy study guide to study for and pass the exam.
Study guides are generally inexpensive, and really go over all of the questions that you would find on a typical certification exam. Some of the things you will be quizzed on include:
- Data entry
- Patient etiquette
- Physiology and anatomy
Before you can take the exam, you will need to register with the certifying body of your choosing. You will also be required to pay a fee for taking the exam.
Make sure that you understand what you will need to bring with you on exam day to avoid missing or not being able to sit down for the test.
Each certifying body will have their own requirements regarding punctuality and forms if ID.
Phlebotomist Pay Scale
A phlebotomist’s salary largely depends on location, experience and training. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for phlebotomists is $30,150, or $14.50 an hour. And if you have specialty training or many years of experience on your phlebotomy resume, you can command a higher salary. Phlebotomists in the 90th percentile, for example, earn $43,190, or $20.77 an hour.
Phlebotomists can earn a higher salary if they work in the following industries:
- Insurance carriers
- Individual and family services
- Health and personal care stores
And if you’re willing to relocate, you can choose to become employed in one of the top paying states for phlebotomists, which include:
- New York
Of course, a career as a phlebotomist is not all about the salary you earn. While earning potential is important, the rewarding aspect of this career is what draws in most aspiring phlebotomists. With the right training program and determination, you can enjoy a satisfying career in the phlebotomy field. Phlebotomists are in high demand and with the health industry growing at a rapid rate, this is an exciting career path that will lead to many opportunities in the future.