A phlebotomist is a medical technician whose primary task involves drawing blood from patients and preparing the blood specimen for laboratory testing. Phlebotomists must be comfortable working with needles, blood, and the general public, including sick patients. Laboratories, hospitals, doctor’s offices, and donation centers provide the most common job opportunities in the field. According to the United States Bureau for Labor Statistics, the need for phlebotomists will rise over the next several years making a career in phlebotomy a practical and exciting career choice.
Phlebotomy is a highly accessible career with relatively short training programs and minimal requirements to enter a training program. These requirements include a high school diploma or its equivalent. While students who took high school science classes may find a phlebotomy training program easier since there is a heavy focus on the sciences, there are no specific high school courses required. However, some programs require potential students to obtain and maintain CPR certification throughout the program, submit to a criminal background check, demonstrate they are current on specific vaccinations, and demonstrate a negative tuberculosis test.
Community colleges and technical or vocational schools are some common providers of phlebotomy training programs. These programs vary in length, usually lasting anywhere from two months to one year. Attending an accredited phlebotomy training program is imperative as many employers will not hire someone without accredited training, and some states require an accredited program in order to receive certification.
Accredited training programs require classroom time and clinical training. Common classroom topics include human anatomy and physiology, safety and sanitation procedures, medical terminology, building rapport with patients, and avoidance of disease transmission. Students may also discuss ethical and legal issues pertinent to the medical field.
Clinical training is a crucial component of a good training program as it allows students to get hands-on experience in drawing blood, interacting with patients, and properly handling blood specimens. Students often complete their clinical training at hospitals and other clinics under the supervision of a currently practicing phlebotomist. Students will practice clearly explaining a blood draw to their patients, following the proper procedures for a blood draw, drawing the blood itself, and labeling and storing all specimens according to the facilities’ practices and procedures.
While it is possible to secure employment in some states immediately upon graduating from a phlebotomy training program, phlebotomy certification increases employment opportunities and is required in other states. Certified phlebotomists also may enjoy higher pay and better job security. Certification boards often require completion of an accredited training program and a minimum number of unassisted blood collections before sitting for the certification examination. The certification exams cover a broad range of topics, and many organizations offer study guides and practice tests.
There are many certification options available, but it is important to check state requirements to ensure an individual state accepts a particular organization’s certification. Some options include the American Certification Agency (ACA), the American Medical Technologists (AMT), the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP), the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel (NCA), and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). Each organization has its own requirements for certification renewal and continuing education.
Career Mobility and Further Education
There are many options for phlebotomists to further their phlebotomist education in the medical field. Some phlebotomists broaden their knowledge by obtaining additional certifications such as an electrocardiogram (EKG) certificate or become a certified nursing assistant (CNA). Many nurses began their careers in phlebotomy and find their expertise in drawing blood a great asset in the nursing field.