What Does a Phlebotomist Do? - Duties, Job Description & Responsibilities

Phlebotomists are medical professionals who draw blood and other samples, which they run tests on in order to help with the diagnosis of illnesses. Find out more about the responsibilities of a phlebotomist and what it takes to become one by reading on. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Phlebotomist?

Phlebotomists, sometimes also known as phlebotomy technicians, are allied health professionals who are responsible for drawing blood and collecting samples from patients in order to perform lab tests that can identify diseases or the causes of a patient's symptoms. Phlebotomists work in laboratories, clinics, and hospitals alongside doctors and nurses, and like them, must interact with patients face-to-face on a regular basis. Employers generally prefer to hire phlebotomy technicians who are certified, and phlebotomy certification is required in order to work in the profession in a few states.

Phlebotomist Job Description

A phlebotomist's primary responsibility is to draw blood from patients, which can also be done for the purposes of blood donation or transfusion rather than just diagnosing ailments. Phlebotomy duties in hospitals and clinics may also include running tests on the blood samples they take. To ensure accurate results, phlebotomists must be very careful to label and organize samples, and avoid contamination. Because patients may be carrying infections that they are not aware of, phlebotomists must be cautious even when taking samples from seemingly healthy individuals, in order to prevent accidental exposure to pathogens. Someone hoping to work as a phlebotomy technician should possess steady hands and good coordination, so as to facilitate drawing blood quickly and accurately, as well as attention to detail, when it comes to properly labeling and cataloging samples. These professionals are also responsible for maintaining equipment and keeping the work areas and equipment clean.

Becoming a Phlebotomist

In order to become a phlebotomy technician, it is generally necessary to complete an educational program in phlebotomy. Phlebotomy programs are often available as certificates or technical diplomas, and include courses such as:

  • Intro to phlebotomy
  • Phlebotomy technology
  • Medical terminology
  • Medical law and ethics

Certificate and diploma programs in phlebotomy can be completed in under a year. Many of them also include a practicum or other form of hands-on learning experience. Online phlebotomy programs are sometimes available, but will likely still require some form of real world training. Educational programs are also commonly designed to prepare students to sit for certification exams, which can be taken shortly after completion.

Phlebotomy Certifications

Many certifying organizations for phlebotomy exist, with two of the most common being the American Medical Technologists (AMT) and the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). AMT offers a certification known as the Registered Phlebotomy Technician (RPT), which requires that applicants have completed a program that consists of at least 120 hours of classroom experience, as well as performing 50 vein punctures and 10 capillary punctures successfully on humans. In place of the education program, 1,040 hours of approved work experience may suffice. Applicants who have documentation of these requirements must then pass a certification exam in order to earn the credential. ASCP offers a credential known as the certified Phlebotomy Technician, abbreviated PBT (ASCP). ASCP has several different paths to certification available, including completion of an approved program, work experience in phlebotomy, or holding related medical licenses or certifications. All routes require a high school diploma or the equivalent, however, and applicants still must pass a certification exam.

Choice of certification is largely up to preference, and may be determined by the educational program in which you decided to enroll. Some states, such as California, require certification of phlebotomy technicians, but even where it is not required, it is strongly preferred by employers. Certification must be maintained through the completion of continuing education on a three year basis for both AMT and ASCP.

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