A phlebotomist is a trained medical professional who obtains blood and other specimens from people for laboratory tests and other medical procedures. The word phlebotomy, which is the procedure performed by a phlebotomist, comes from the Greek words “phlebo” and “tomy.” “Phlebo” means regarding a blood vessel and “tomy” means to make an incision. Phlebotomy is defined as making an incision in a vein. Another word for the procedure of making an incision in a vein with a needle is “venipuncture.” Another term for a phlebotomist is venipuncturist.
Hospitals, independent laboratories, clinics and medical offices all employ phlebotomists. The purposes for obtaining blood are varied. A phlebotomist may draw blood from a person who is donating blood, having a blood test or participating in medical research. A person needing a blood transfusion may have the procedure performed by a phlebotomist. This medical professional often explains the procedure being performed to the patient and assists if the patient has an adverse reaction to the procedure.
A phlebotomist obtains quality blood samples from patients and prepares them for laboratory testing. It is imperative to perform procedures with skill and accuracy while following safety practices. These technicians also clean and sterilize laboratory equipment following standard safety regulations. The job is sometimes performed in a high-pressure environment depending upon the particular location or employer. The technician must be able to perform her duties with a high level of skill regardless of the environment. The phlebotomist must maintain the privacy of her patients as she deals with confidential medical information and records. She must also have a pleasant professional manner with people which provides reassurance to them during blood draws and related procedures.
A phlebotomist must first have a high school diploma to begin specialized training that leads to certification. The mean annual wage for a phlebotomist in the United States according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics is $31,410 as of May 2013. Although most states do not require certification for employment as a phlebotomist, most employers do require it. North Carolina does not require certification to practice phlebotomy. Most employers desire continuing education for phlebotomists to keep up to date on best practices and current health issues.
Community colleges and technical schools offer programs in phlebotomy. These programs are accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences or NAACLS. These programs typically include 42 hours of classroom training and 140 hours of clinical training. Phlebotomy students must pass courses in anatomy, physiology, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, medical terminology and health care law. Students complete clinical training at a variety of sites. Experienced medical professionals supervise trainees during the clinical experience hours.
As students complete the coursework and clinical training, they prepare for a certification examination. The certification examination is given by agencies such as the American Medical Technologists, the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians and the National Healthcareer Association. Some agencies require continuing professional education training of five or six hours each year to maintain certification. Others require employment in the field and a yearly fee.
Most training programs for phlebotomists in North Carolina are of relatively short term. Programs are generally under one year. For instance, at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina, the program may be completed in one semester. The course entails a classroom phase lasting seven weeks. Upon successful completion of the classroom phase, students then must complete seven weeks of clinical training experience. For some students, this is an entry into the world of the medical professional that inspires them to pursue other training in the medical field. Students may find an interest in the nursing profession or medical technology field after working as a phlebotomist.