The practice of phlebotomy, known historically as “bloodletting”, has ancient roots dating back to the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians to treat illness and free the body of evil. Mayans and Mesopotamians practiced bloodletting in ritualistic ceremonies. Eventually the Greeks found that bloodletting could be used as a significant medical practice. Modern phlebotomy is now used on a regular basis in hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, medical centers, laboratories, centers for donating blood and any other health care situations that require blood being extracted and analyzed. This practice that has become a fundamental benefit to modern medicine began as primitive bloodletting activities of some of the earliest civilizations.
In modern times blood drawn from a patient may be used for tests that assist doctors in determining the nature of a patient’s illness and how best to treat them. Other services a phlebotomist may perform include blood transfusions, intravenous medication, monitoring blood counts for certain treatments, research and testing for numerous diseases. A modern-day phlebotomist may check a patient’s pulse, respiration rate and blood pressure in combination with drawing blood. An important function for a phlebotomist is to record a patient’s results so their health profile is up-to-date regarding blood history.
Typically occupations in the medical profession require many years of study in a school program setting. An exception to this standard is found with a career in phlebotomy. A professional phlebotomist acquires most of their education in the field while obtaining experience through training programs which are usually unpaid. The school chosen by a potential phlebotomist will generally include these training programs along with classroom instruction.
Prior to obtaining an education in phlebotomy the initial requirement is a basic high school education or GED. After that, training programs and coursework in phlebotomy are usually offered by community colleges. Courses in biology and human anatomy in addition to other health-related college courses will supply a basic knowledge of information considered necessary to work as a phlebotomist. This would include the study of blood and cell composition as well as blood sampling procedures. Laboratory safety is essential for all who work in the field.
Blood-drawing procedures are an important element for a phlebotomist. There are a variety of methods to accomplish safe and efficient blood-drawing. During training, techniques are taught to draw blood from the vein. This would include the common butterfly technique for patients with small veins, capillary piercing for newborn babies, and the “finger-stick” procedure for patients who have veins that are hard to get to. Good training programs will teach students how to handle lab equipment and cleaning up spills to avoid spread of infection. Some phlebotomist programs will include certification in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, which is commonly known as CPR.
In order to have a career in phlebotomy, a certificate or an associate degree in the field of study is optional but valuable. States throughout the U.S. do not require the same fundamentals for professional phlebotomists, but employers in every state expect these professionals to have some combination of hands-on experience and classroom education. Particular education requirements can be found by contacting the state licensing authority, a local hospital or clinic. There is a National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences that accredits these types of programs in the U.S. Attendance in an accredited laboratory science program will probably give an inexperienced phlebotomist a competitive advantage in the job market.
COURSEWORK and CERTIFICATION
Phlebotomy is a highly specialized profession, which means coursework is minimized. One accredited example program contains only four classes. These include one course in health sciences, one in human biology with two courses in medical terminology. This four-course program emphasizes learning through field experience. In contrast phlebotomy students may choose a bachelor degree program that is offered in medical technology which consists of general education courses along with the necessary health and science classes necessary for a phlebotomist.
Certification is optional for prospective phlebotomists; however a large majority of employers require a certification or diploma so it is strongly recommended. Some employers may even prefer certain certifications over others. An accredited phlebotomist program may entail one-semester to one-year to complete a program. Certification in phlebotomy may also be obtained from a variety of organizations in the U.S. and they may require proof of completion in specific training and experience in the field. Passing an exam in certain circumstances may also be a requirement for employment.
Agencies that offer testing for the professional phlebotomist are listed below:
• American Medical Technologists (AMT)
• American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)
• American Society or Phlebotomy Technicians (ASPT)
The agencies that offer these tests are Registered Phlebotomy Technicians and Certified Phlebotomy Technicians. Phlebotomists who pass these professional tests are also required to continue getting education credits to maintain their professional status. Additional certification as a Donor Phlebotomy Technician qualifies a phlebotomist to work in blood collection centers.
ADDITIONAL PREFERRED ABILITIES
It is not considered a strict requirement, but pleasing mannerisms are a benefit to the professional phlebotomist. A sense of understanding and the ability to explain procedures are ideal character traits for a trained phlebotomist. Patient care and safety protocol are also important. The idea of taking blood can be a frightening experience for a large section of the general public. Procedures and needs for blood-work may be difficult for many to understand and a phlebotomist that can put a patient at ease is performing a service for that patient. A steady hand would also be a preferred characteristic for a person in this field. Safety practices including sterilizing and proper cleaning of the equipment will help to avoid cross-contamination and the spread of additional illness.