Introduction to phlebotomy

September 2, 2016

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Doctors often order blood tests when trying to determine a patient’s condition. Blood tests can tell a doctor a lot about a patient’s condition from whether they have an infection to what drugs are in their system. But doctors do not perform the blood tests they order, which is where a phlebotomist comes in.

Phlebotomists draw blood samples from patients for medical tests. If you are not squeamish around blood, want to help people and are interested in a healthcare career without years of training, phlebotomy may be for you.

Responsibilities of a phlebotomist

If you work as a phlebotomist, your main responsibility is to obtain blood samples from patients. It might not sound that complicated, but there is more to the job than you might realize. Mistakes can have critical consequences. For instance, if a blood sample is mislabeled, test results are inaccurate and can result in the wrong treatment for the wrong patient.

During the course of their workday, phlebotomists might have to obtain blood from dozens of patients. In addition to drawing a sample, it’s essential to keep all specimens properly labeled and organized.

Also, various medical tests may require a different amount of blood to run the test. A phlebotomist must be aware of what tests they are drawing blood for and ensure they have obtained enough of a sample.

Understanding safety precautions is also critical when working as a phlebotomist. Various diseases, such as hepatitis, can be transmitted through blood. Phlebotomists must adhere to all safety precautions to protect themselves and their patients.

Training and education

Formal training is required to work in phlebotomy. Phlebotomy training programs are offered through private technical schools, community colleges and adult learning centers. Admission into phlebotomy programs usually requires a high school diploma or completion of a GED.

Most phlebotomy programs are between four and six months. Longer programs are available, which combine additional skills, such as medical assisting or EKG monitoring.

Phlebotomy programs usually include courses in venipuncture drawing techniques, patient safety and using universal precautions. Classes include lecture and also laboratory work. During the lab, you will likely practice drawing blood on other students.

After you complete a phlebotomy program, you qualify to take the certification exam to become a certified phlebotomist. One certifying agency is the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians. Although not all states require certification, it helps show a certain level of knowledge and ability. It also makes it easier to find employment.

Opportunities and salary

Currently, there is a demand for qualified phlebotomists. According to the United Stated Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for phlebotomists are expected to grow about 27 percent through the year 2022. Phlebotomists may find employment opportunities in hospitals, rehab centers and outpatient labs and blood banks.

Average salaries for phlebotomists vary based on a person’s level of experience, place of employment and geographical area. According to the BLS, in 2015, the median salary for people working in phlebotomy was about $32,000, which is about $15.21 an hour.


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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.