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What Are the Duties of a Phlebotomist?

If you're not the least bit squeamish at the sight of blood and would like to enter an allied health career, you may want to consider becoming a phlebotomist. Keep reading to learn more about what these professionals do on a day-to-day basis.

Job Responsibilities of a Phlebotomist

As a phlebotomist, you draw blood from patients for medical analysis, research, donation or transfusion. You may collect blood specimens using a variety of methods, like venipuncture, dermal puncture or artery collection. People are often uncomfortable with having their blood drawn; it's your responsibility to explain the collection process and help ease a patient's nerves the best you can. Also, you'll enter patient, billing, insurance or specimen information on a computer.

Phlebotomists follow strict precautionary safety procedures in order to limit the risk of contact with potentially infectious blood, tissues, and other bodily fluids. You'll need to be familiar with laws and policies related to the hazardous materials you may work with. Prior to drawing blood, you must make sure all instruments are sterile. Record keeping and labeling are also major duties of this position; you'll ensure that the right tests are performed on the correct blood specimens. Possible places of employment include hospitals, laboratories, blood banks and clinics.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Similar Occupations Dental assistant, medical assistant, medical transcriptionist, physician assistant
Key Skills Dexterity, attention to detail, empathy, hand-eye coordination
Entry-level Education Postsecondary non-degree award
Median Salary (2018) $34,480*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Statistics

Education and Certification

To become a phlebotomist, you need to complete at least 3 months of on-the-job training or a formal education program. Certificate, diploma and associate degree programs are available; they're usually offered through community colleges, technical schools or hospitals. These programs typically include theoretical instruction, skill-building labs and hands-on clinical practice. Your coursework may cover methods for specimen collection, medical terminology, blood-sample processing and safety procedures. You may also be required to complete a clinical externship.

While it's not required, many employers prefer to hire phlebotomists who are certified. Several organizations, including the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians and the American Society for Clinical Pathology, offer certification exams; you need to meet education and experience requirements in order to sit for these exams. To maintain certification, you must complete continuing education coursework.

Salary and Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of employed phlebotomists is expected to increase by 25% between 2016 and 2026. An increase in patients with access to medical care will heighten the need for diagnostic testing, and technicians such as phlebotomists will be needed to collect samples for such tests.