A phlebotomist is an individual who is well trained in the skill of taking or drawing blood from living people or animals in a clinical environment. By using venipuncture, which is the process of making an incision in the vein to draw blood, phlebotomy personnel can collect blood samples for the purposes of research, testing, donations, or transfusions.
Phlebotomy personnel work under the supervision of a medical laboratory scientist. Some countries, states or provinces require the certification or licensing of all their phlebotomy personnel before they can enter the workforce. They are an essential part of a successfully-running lab facility, and are some of the first people that patients will see when entering a clinical lab for testing.
The phlebotomy specialist tests and analyzes the blood sample they have collected using sophisticated laboratory equipment. The hazardous nature of dealing with blood means all phlebotomy personnel must strictly and constantly adhere to all laboratory safety procedures as mandated by the company and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).
Phlebotomy specialists draw blood from arteries and veins in order to get samples. They must also see to it that the lab area designated for phlebotomy is well cleaned and sanitized after each patient leaves to prevent the spread of diseases.
An often-understated part of a phlebotomy specialist job is their duty to make the blood drawing experience as pleasant as possible, from making the needle incision relatively pain free, to calming down people who are afraid of needles. Without this skill anyone practicing phlebotomy would have a difficult, if not impossible time trying to do their job with any proficiency.
For an individual to be a successful phlebotomy professional, they must love and enjoy working with people. Phlebotomy specialists will encounter people from various walks of life, and in varying moods, so phlebotomy personnel must have the ability to deal with the different kinds of people they encounter. They must be able to relate to everyone from screaming children, to nervous adults, to elderly people with weak veins.
Phlebotomy specialists must also have excellent dexterity, while staying calm and working effectively under pressure. They may encounter thirty or more patients in a day, each with different reasons for having their blood drawn. If the phlebotomy specialist is not focused on what they are doing while staying calm amidst the possible irritability of some patients, not only can the wrong test be done on a patient’s blood due to wrong labeling, but the test samples may also get cross-contaminated due to lack of concentration. Cross-contamination occurs when two or more blood samples interact unintentionally with each other.
Phlebotomy personnel must also have excellent attention to detail. Making sure that each test sample is labeled correctly is extremely vital if the right test is to be performed on the patient’s blood. This becomes even more crucial if the patient is being tested for a life-threatening disease or virus.
Phlebotomy specialists must not only be good communicators, but also good listeners. Being able to listen and adjust to the needs and desires of the patient could be the difference between a stress-free patient visit and a stressful one. All phlebotomy personnel today must be able to work with computers and other high-tech lab equipment.
Courses in phlebotomy can last from four to eight months or more depending on where the person seeking employment plans to work. Course training and field training are usually together. Theory of phlebotomy, medical terminology for phlebotomy, anatomy and physiology for phlebotomy, and phlebotomy practicum, are some of the courses required in order to become a phlebotomy specialist. For help in finding a school nearby that offers phlebotomy courses, go to the “School of Phlebotomy" website. The American Certification Agency in Osceola, IN, NCCT in Overland Park, KS, ASCP Board of Certification in Chicago, IL, and American Medical Technologists in Rosemont, IL are just some of the agencies that offer certification of individuals interested in a career in phlebotomy.
Phlebotomy professionals generally work in a clinical setting in a variety of places. Blood banks, physicians offices, home health agencies, hospitals, clinics, research institutes, commercial laboratories, pharmaceutical firms and public health facilities are the places one would typically find work as a phlebotomy specialist. Public health facilities are usually very busy and understaffed, making that environment very stressful to work in. Work times can vary, especially in hospitals and 24 hour clinics, however in most other facilities a phlebotomy professional can expect work hours to be between 7am to 7pm during weekdays and varying hours on weekends.