Phlebotomists are medical professionals who draw blood from patients and submit blood specimens for laboratory testing. They measure blood pressure, as well as pulse and respiration rates.
The profession also entails administering injections and inserting intravenous lines. Patient records must be created and updated.
Most phlebotomists work in clinical laboratories at hospitals, medical clinics, doctors’ offices, and blood banks. Some are employed in prisons, nursing homes, and other facilities. They may be called upon to help with blood drives at schools, businesses, and other locations.
Full-time and part-time positions are available. Phlebotomists often work under the supervision of clinical laboratory technologists. Some specialize in pediatrics, the elderly, or other patient groups.
This position is considered an excellent way to enter the medical profession. Significant job growth in the field is expected.
Phlebotomist Job Description
A phlebotomist uses a tourniquet to reduce the flow of blood in the upper arm of a patient or blood donor. The area from which blood is to be drawn must be disenfected by swabbing it with alcohol.
A needle is inserted into a vein to collect the blood. This procedure is known as venipuncture. Another method of obtaining blood, to determine its type or blood-sugar level, is pricking a patient’s finger.
Phlebotomists must accurately label specimen samples and ensure that they do not become contaminated. Mistakes can result in misdiagnoses and other serious mistakes that can have dire consequences.
The job also involves cleaning, organizing, and stocking materials. Carts and blood-draw trays must be cleared of used needles and other items, and filled with new materials.The phlebotomist job description includes:
- Meet with patients and blood donors to make sure they understand the procedures;
- Confirm patient information by asking for their names and those of the doctors who ordered the blood tests;
- Apply tourniquets while helping patients become calm and relaxed;
- Insert hypodermic needles into veins, or prick fingers, to withdraw blood samples;
- Apply a dressing to the area of the skin punctured by the needle;
- Label blood samples with names, collection dates and times, and other information so they cannot be confused with those of other patients;
- Organize and store specimens, and transport them to the laboratory;
- Compare test results with information in nurses’ logs, and report any contradictory information;
- Conduct laboratory test analyses, which involve detecting how certain chemicals react with blood specimens;
- Report results of test analyses to doctors;
- Follow prescribed protocols for keeping equipment and materials free of contamination, to prevent the spread of disease;
- Dispose of used materials, especially needles and other items contaminated with blood;
- Assist in administering drugs, including glucose;
- Maintain a quality-control log, periodically test equipment to ensure it is functioning properly, and identify and report problems to superiors;
- Monitor patients’ glucose levels, pulse rates, and other indicators;
- Keep patient records by performing computer data entry;
- Receive continuing education by attending conferences, reading medical publications, and joining professional organizations (such as the American Society for Phlebotomy Technicians).
Many people have negative reactions to the sight of blood. They need to learn to overcome this aversion, or choose another profession.
Phlebotomists must abide by established safety protocols to prevent being exposed to contagious diseases (like HIV and hepatitis) in patients’ blood. Protective gloves are worn during blood-drawing procedures. Attention to detail is required for the proper labeling and storage of specimens.
Because they work directly with patients, phlebotomists need to be skilled at reassuring those who are anxious or stressed. Good communication skills must be employed to explain procedures to patients and make them feel comfortable.
Taking blood requires eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity. Doing so properly minimizes patients’ pain and discomfort.
How to become a Phlebotomist
Anyone planning to pursue a medical career of any sort is advised to take biology, chemistry, and other science classes in high school. Math courses also are recommended.
To become a phlebotomist, a student often completes a formal training program available at hospitals or technical and vocational school. They can vary between 8 weeks to 6 months. A phlebotomist can apply for certification after one year of practice through an accredited laboratory.
Obtaining a two-year associate’s degree can improve the chances of landing a job, or qualifying for a more advanced position like medical assistant or laboratory technician. Associate’s degree programs feature science classwork and clinical laboratory training.
Phlebotomists with bachelor’s degrees can qualify for higher-ranking, and better-paying, positions like laboratory supervisor or medical technologist.
Find a Phlebotomist School
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A certificate from a professional organization is not required. However, it can aid in getting a job and earning higher pay. A phlebotomy technician certificate may be earned by passing an exam administered by the National Healthcareer Association. This certification program is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.
State-issued licenses to practice phlebotomy are not mandated. Many employers do require that their phlebotomists have first-aid certificates and drivers’ licenses.
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Phlebotomist Job Description SummaryHere is a short recap of the phlebotomist job description:
- Draw blood for various laboratory tests
- Work with clinical laboratory technologists
- 8 weeks to 6 months certificate program
- Certification not required to practice
- 27% employment growth by 2022