If you’ve been on the receiving end of a blood draw, you know how important the skill, demeanor and personality of a phlebotomist can be—particularly if the thought of having a needle stuck in your arm is enough to send you running away! But having empathy and concerns for the fears and insecurities of patients requiring blood work isn’t enough if you want to pursue a career in this important field of work. Whether you live in Waterloo or Des Moines—and whether your ambition is to work for a private practice or a hospital—there’s room for you if you undertake the training necessary to qualify you for a place in this profession.
Job description? Likely you already have an idea of responsibilities and tasks associated with this medical specialty, but it’s always a good idea to have a job description reiterated so you’re clear on what to expect. Phlebotomists work within a professional group the U.S. Bureau of Labor classifies as “clinical technologists and technicians.” Your primary role will be to conduct blood draws for either testing or transfusion, a task known as venipuncture. You won’t necessarily analyze the blood, nor will you administer medications, but you will be required to label specimens, complete documents necessary to order the right tests and you might also be given other administrative tasks by your employer that are related to the samples you take from patients.
Are there risks? Any time one must draw and handle blood specimens, there’s a risk to the technician, which is why phlebotomists often don more than just vinyl or latex gloves to undertake patient blood draws. Some medical institutions and practices require phlebotomists to don face masks, surgical caps and/or gowns and wear other protective gear to keep samples and technicians safe. Your willingness to take risks that deal with blood-borne pathogens related to blood makes you an ideal candidate for this profession. If you’re not willing to take such precautions, you may wish to look at other career options in the medical field.
How about experience? If you’ve worked with people in the past—whether it’s babysitting or even an office job—your exposure to the public and ability to deal with people, plus either a high school diploma or equivalency credentials, can launch your education and career as a phlebotomist. When choosing training facilities in or near your home in Iowa, expect a surprising number of choices, but it’s wise to choose a program recognized by the United States Department of Education and at least one recognized agency—like the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences—to obtain a comprehensive education leading to the widest possible job choices.
Which schools in Iowa? Once you start school shopping you’ll discover many differences. Some programs can be completed in 12 weeks; others require a year or more. Tuitions vary. So do time commitments. Highly recommended programs are: Indian Hills Community College (Ottumwa), Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Council Bluffs’ Iowa Western Community College, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Eastern Iowa Community College in Davenport, Waterloo’s Hawkeye Community College, Iowa Valley Community College (also in Council Bluffs) and Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids.
What are typical program differences? Curricula tied to Iowa’s community college system means that students may be expected to undertake classes outside the phlebotomy major. Some specialized programs don’t require electives and run 12 to 14 weeks in length. Find a variety of fee structures associated with phlebotomy programs run by Iowa community colleges. For example, pay $1599 to complete the program at Iowa Valley CC in Marshalltown, while St. Luke’s College of Sioux City’s base tuition is only $800. Each school district is unique. Check with yours to ascertain program costs.
Must I attend college? You don’t have to undertake phlebotomy training at the college level to become employed in Iowa. You can opt for private schools, programs associated with hospitals and clinics and private, accredited schools. A typical non-college program could consist of in-person and online training that leads to a certificate of completion. Does it make sense to opt for this shortened program? It does if you want to find out whether you like the job, have a finite amount of time to devote to training and are satisfied you can learn what you need. In just about all cases—college, private, clinical–criminal background checks and drug screenings are required for admission.
Is certification mandatory? If you choose to become a member of the phlebotomist community in Iowa, certification isn’t required. Complete your training at any accredited school in the state and apply for jobs, but with the understanding that some institutions hiring phlebotomists within the Iowa medical community are beginning to require proof of certification from recognized entities like the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians (ASPT) and American Medical Technologists (AMT). Expect to see a move toward mandated certification in the future. California and Louisiana already require it.
What can I earn? Demand for technicians and salaries have dropped in Iowa over the past few years. In 2012, phlebotomists earned from $27,000 to $29,000 per annum in large cities where facilities are concentrated and competition is greater. Employment website Indeed.com reports phlebotomist salaries in Iowa are currently 2-percent lower than the national average at $23,000. You can maximize your earning potential by getting certified and working in an urban location with a larger job market. Want to know which Iowa cities are doing the most hiring? They’re listed here in alphabetical order: Ames, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Dubuque, Iowa City, Sioux City, Waterloo and West Des Moines.