Phlebotomy is the science of drawing blood and the person who does this is known as a phlebotomist. Phlebotomists can be found in hospitals, outpatient clinics, and any other medical or laboratory facility where blood samples from patients are required on a daily basis. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies phlebotomists as Clinical and Medical Laboratory Technologists or technicians. Technologists typically perform more complex work than that of technicians thus requiring more education.
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Phlebotomy At a Glance
Other Job Titles: Medical Laboratory Technologists, Clinical Laboratory Technologists
Salary Range*: $38,000-$76,780; Median $56,000
Education/Training Required: For technicians: certificate or associate’s degree; for technologists: bachelor’s degree
Desired Skills/Aptitude: Detail-oriented, technically oriented, compassion towards those whom they are drawing blood
Certification/Licensing: Certification and licensing requirements vary by state
Locations with Best Opportunities: Illinois, Washington, Hawaii, California
Employment Outlook: Growth expected in the range of 11-15% through 2020
Opportunities for Advancement: With continued education, can move into practically any medical field; can advance to supervisory positions with continued education and experience
What a Phlebotomist Does
A phlebotomist has the primary job duty of drawing blood from a patient so that the sample can be used in a medical procedure or lab test. There are other tasks that a phlebotomist must be able to perform in order to do the primary job to include:
- Identifying the correct veins for safely drawing blood
- Lifting and turning disabled patients
- Preventing errors to minimize the number of blood draws
- Properly cleansing the blood draw site
- Identifying alternate sites to draw blood from
- Handling samples to prevent contamination
- Practicing safety to prevent mishaps from biohazards
- Drawing blood under special conditions
- Complying with chain-of-custody regulations
Drawing blood under special conditions can include situations such as when a patient is undergoing dialysis or when a subject is the focus of a criminal investigation requiring a blood draw. With the latter example, strict compliance with chain-of-custody regulations is a must because not doing so could affect the outcome of a criminal investigation. An example of this would be if a person must give a sample to test for blood alcohol content after an arrest for driving under the influence.
Phlebotomists employed as medical or clinical laboratory technologists will perform more complex tasks to include analyzing bodily fluids and tissue samples. They also supervise technicians.
The majority of phlebotomists are employed in hospitals with their state-of-the-art laboratory facilities. They can also be employed in doctor’s offices and medical/diagnostic laboratories.
A typical day can be busy depending on the number of samples that must be collected thus a phlebotomist might be on the feet for the majority of the work shift.
Education and Certification
If you are interested in pursuing this career and still in high school, you should try to take courses in mathematics, biology, and chemistry as these will give you a good basis for further post-secondary education.
After high school, post-secondary education is a requirement. If seeking to gain entry at the technician level, a certificate or associate’s degree from a vocational or community college is required. In some cases, those with a degree in a related medical field will take a certificate program to gain specialization in phlebotomy and further advance their careers.
Those seeking entry as a technologist will need to complete a bachelor’s degree program. The curriculums of these programs teach courses in microbiology, statistics, chemistry, mathematics, and biology. The senior year typically has clinical sessions so that the students can gain hands-on experience.
Certification for all levels of phlebotomists is required in order to obtain licensing in some states. It is best to check your state’s requirements however most employers will prefer candidates who are certified. The certifications are obtained as medical laboratory technician or technology with a specialization in phlebotomy.
*Salary Source: BLS May 2012