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What Is a Phlebotomist?

Phlebotomists are clinical technicians who specialize in drawing blood from patients and blood donors. Educational requirements for phlebotomists vary by state, but a training program and certification are preferred.

Duties of a Phlebotomist

Phlebotomy technicians draw blood for testing in hospital and laboratory settings. In addition to drawing blood, phlebotomists perform related tasks such as talking to patients, sterilizing instruments and filing reports.

Important Facts About This Occupation

On-the-job TrainingWork under the supervision of a professional phlebotomist
Professional CertificationTakes less than a year to complete
Work EnvironmentBlood donor centers, doctors' offices, hospitals, laboratories
Similar OccupationsMedical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians

Drawing Blood

The main role of a phlebotomist is to draw blood for the purpose of testing or transfusion. The blood is taken by inserting a tube or needle into a vein (a process called venipuncture) and collected into special tubes or bags. Pricking a finger can be used when only a small amount of blood is needed. Babies can have blood drawn from the heel or scalp.

Handling Specimens and Equipment

Phlebotomists are in charge of the equipment they use, and they must prepare supplies of gauze, alcohol and tourniquets. They also make sure that blood collection tubes and needles are sterile prior to use. Phlebotomists learn to use aseptic technique to prevent cross contamination while taking blood samples, which protects both the patient and the validity of the sample. The phlebotomist must use gloves and other precautions, like safe biohazard disposal boxes for needles, to avoid being exposed to infected blood.

After collection, phlebotomists must label and store the blood specimens. Some draws may need to be done remotely, so the phlebotomist will transport the specimens back to the hospital or lab.

Communicating

Strong communication skills are vital to the role of a phlebotomist. Patients can often be apprehensive about having blood drawn, and some may have a fear of blood or needles. A phlebotomist needs to be able to keep a patient calm and explain the drawing procedure in clear terms. In addition, phlebotomists are in constant communication with doctors, nurses and other lab technicians. They keep written records of procedures and talk to doctors about appointments and test results.

Education Options

Phlebotomy technician programs are typically offered at the certificate level and take one semester to complete. Applicants may need to have a high school background in math and science subjects. In phlebotomy programs, students often take classroom-based courses as well as complete clinical training in a medical setting. Topics of study can include anatomy and physiology, CPR, first aid, safety procedures, venipuncture, centrifuging and dermal techniques.

Career Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that there would be a 17% increase in employment of phlebotomists, between 2019 and 2029. As of 2019, the 10th-90th percentile of phlebotomists made between $26,000 and $49,750, and the median annual wage for phlebotomists was $35,510, also listed by the BLS.