How to Become a Phlebotomy Technician in California
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The path to becoming a certified phlebotomist in California might appear complicated, but it's completely doable if you break it down in easy-to-manage steps. Here, we discover what it means to be a phlebotomy technician, and how you can become a vital part of a healthcare team in just a few weeks.  

Phlebotomists are medical professionals who draw blood from patients in a variety of ways. Phlebotomists work in hospitals, doctor's offices, and other specialty facilities. If you have ever had your blood drawn, you have met a phlebotomist! In California, phlebotomists are regulated by the state’s department of health. As a result, aspiring phlebotomists must complete a series of requirements and register with the state before they are allowed to work with patients. Below, we explore how to become a phlebotomist, also known as a phlebotomy technician, in the Golden State. 

Understanding the Levels of Phlebotomy Certification 

In California, there are three levels of phlebotomy certification: Limited Phlebotomy Technician (LPT), Certified Phlebotomy Technician I (CPT I), and Certified Phlebotomy Technician II (CPT II).

Limited Phlebotomy Technician (LPT)

An LPT is authorized to do skin puncture - also known as a fingerstick - blood collection only. To become an LPT, you need to complete 20 hours of basic classes, perform 25 successful skin punctures in a clinical setting, and pass a written examination.

Certified Phlebotomy Technician I (CPT I)

A CPT I can perform venipuncture and skin punctures. Venipuncture involves using a needle to draw blood from a vein, usually in the arm. The requirements for this certification vary depending on your level of experience: 

  • Zero to 40 hours phlebotomy experience: If you have less than 40 hours of phlebotomy experience - or no experience at all - no worries! You'll need to complete a 40 hour training program, perform 50 venipunctures and 10 skin punctures in a clinical setting, and pass a written exam. 
  • Less than 1040 hours phlebotomy experience: If you have some experience, but it is less than 1040 hours of on-the-job phlebotomy experience in the last five years, you'll need to complete 40 class hours, have at least 40 hours of documented clinical experience any time from the previous 5 years, and pass a written exam.
  • 1040 hours or more phlebotomy experience: If you have 1040 or more hours of on-the-job phlebotomy experience in the last five years, you'll need to complete 20 hours of advanced classes and pass a written exam. 

Certified Phlebotomy Technician II (CPT II)

A CPT II can perform venipuncture, skin punctures, and arterial punctures. Arterial punctures are usually taken from the wrist and they require specific training. To become a CPT II, you must be a CPT I with at least 1040 hours of on-the-job phlebotomy experience in the past five years. You must also complete a minimum of 20 arterial punctures and pass a written exam.

All applications will require a supervisor to sign a form, Letter of Phlebotomy Experience for California Certification, attesting that you have performed the correct number of work and clinical hours, where applicable. All training course certifications must be uploaded to the online application.

Steps to Become a Phlebotomist in California

Step 1: Complete High School

Before pursuing any level of phlebotomy certification, you must complete high school or earn a GED. This foundational education is a prerequisite for most phlebotomy certification programs.

Step 2: Choose Your Desired Level of Phlebotomy Certification

In California, there are three levels of phlebotomy certification:

  • Limited Phlebotomy Technician (LPT)
  • Certified Phlebotomy Technician I (CPT I)
  • Certified Phlebotomy Technician II (CPT II)

Your choice will determine the training and experience requirements you'll need to fulfill. To earn a CPT II certification, you must first earn a CPT I certification or have the prerequisites and experience to be licensed as a CPT I. 

Step 3: Enroll in a Phlebotomy Program

All aspiring phlebotomy technicians must attend a phlebotomy program approved by the California Department of Public Health, based on your chosen certification level:

  • For LPT: Enroll in a program that offers 20 hours of basic classes. After completion, you'll need to perform 25 successful skin punctures in a clinical setting.
  • For CPT I: Depending on your prior experience, you might need to complete 40 hours of basic and advanced classes and then perform 50 venipunctures and 10 skin punctures in a clinical setting. People with extensive hands-on work knowledge may have specific prerequisites.
  • For CPT II: Ideally, you should be a CPT I with ample experience.To earn a CPT II certification, you will take 20 hours of advanced classes, complete a minimum of 20 arterial procedures, and pass an exam.

Learn more: California Phlebotomy Schools

Step 4: Secure State Approval and Qualification

Upon finishing your training, the following steps are necessary:

  • Submit an application here for state approval. This process includes providing evidence of your educational background and training, and successfully passing a background verification. You will need to mail in your training program transcripts.  
  • Pass a certification exam from one of the 7 national certifying organizations, such as the American Medical Technologists (AMT) or the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).

Step 5: Find a Job, Gain Experience and Progress Professionally

Once qualified:

  • Begin your role as a phlebotomist. Practical experience is pivotal, enabling you to refine your expertise.
  • If you are currently an LPT or CPT I, think about progressing to a higher certification level after becoming more comfortable with all types of patients and duties. Once you have approximately 6 months of experience (1040 hours of full time work), you are eligible to become a CPT II.

Pursuing a career as a phlebotomist in California demands commitment and effort. However, it paves the way for a fulfilling profession in the medical sector. With appropriate training and experience, you can offer an indispensable service to both patients and medical professionals.

Step 6: Renewal of Qualification and Ongoing Learning

To uphold your certification in California, continuous professional growth is essential:

  • Continuing Education Requirements: Certified phlebotomists in California hold a certificate valid for 2 years and are required to earn 6 hours of continuing education units (CEUs) in that time frame for certificate renewal. 
  • To renew your license, login to your CDPH account here to begin the online renewal process.  

By adhering to these recertification and continuing education requirements, you ensure that you remain up to date with the latest practices in phlebotomy and continue to provide quality care to patients.

Next Steps

If you're prepared to take the next step, congratulations! You have picked a fulfilling and valuable career! For further details or updates on the certification process, it's a good idea to keep the official California Department of Public Health's Phlebotomy page handy. With the right training and experience, you'll be a practicing phlebotomist in California in just a few weeks, and well on your way to a rewarding and valued career in healthcare.

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