Phlebotomists draw blood for tests, transfusions, donations or research. Learn more about what phlebotomists do, where they work and how to get certified.

Does a job that involves putting patients and donors at ease seem fulfilling to you? Would you like to interact with a wide variety of people at the workplace, including doctors, nurses and laboratory professionals? Would you like to contribute to the field of healthcare in a role that’s critical for creating trust, safety and reliability?

A day in the life of a phlebotomist involves all of this. And more.

What is a phlebotomist?

A phlebotomist, or phlebotomy technician, draws blood for tests, transfusions, donations or research. Some people experience discomfort before and during this process because of phobias related to blood and needles. Therefore, as part of the job, you may also need to explain the steps and create an environment of trust to ensure the patient is at ease. A part of the job may also involve providing assistance when there are patients with adverse reactions.

A day in the life of a phlebotomist

From building trust to following safety standards, there’s an entire range of activities you could be performing every day:

  • Introducing yourself to patients and properly identifying them
  • Explaining the process to patients and helping them relax
  • Following the required steps before you perform ‘venipuncture,’ or the process of puncturing a vein and drawing blood
  • Applying the required bandages after blood is drawn
  • Cleaning and sterilizing equipment as required
  • Accurate labeling and appropriate storage
  • Sending samples to the lab for testing
  • Updating patient records
  • Because you will be interacting directly with patients, a key part of your job would also be to communicate any important information you gather during those interactions.

It’s also important that you avoid direct contact with blood and follow strict safety protocols.

What are the skills and abilities I need for the job?

In a job that involves almost constant contact with others, service orientation and being aware of others’ reactions are key skills that a phlebotomist needs to have. In addition, good listening, communication and critical thinking are important to be able to perform the job well.

A key part of the job involves identifying a vein and accurately puncturing it. Therefore, fine motor skills and the ability to see things at close range are key.

Where do phlebotomists work? 

As a phlebotomist, you could be working in a hospital, laboratory, nursing home, doctor’s office, blood donation center or any other healthcare facility. If you like to be on the move, you could also choose to travel and visit patients who are not mobile.

Depending on where you are placed, you may need to work on shifts and be available for emergency calls.

How do I become a phlebotomy technician?

To become a phlebotomist, you need a postsecondary non-degree award from a phlebotomy program. It usually takes less than a year to complete such a program. While some phlebotomists start off with a high-school diploma and receive training on the job, professional certification is almost always necessary for employment in this field.

Training programs that award the required certification are available at technical schools, vocational schools and community colleges. These programs include content on medical terminology, physiology, and anatomy. The courses will include classroom sessions as well as lab work.

How much do phlebotomists make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for phlebotomists was $35,510 in May 2019. The median annual wages for phlebotomist in the top industries were:

Outpatient care centers: $41,620
Medical and diagnostic laboratories: $37,220
All other ambulatory healthcare services: $34,460
Physician offices: $34,400
Hospitals (state, local, and private): $33,720

What is the job outlook for phlebotomists?

Blood analysis and diagnosis are essential components of healthcare. Phlebotomy is a skill that will continue to be in demand in hospitals, labs, blood donation centers and other healthcare facilities. Phlebotomy technicians are also critical for blood collection. This becomes even more important during a health emergency.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment for phlebotomy technicians is projected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations, at a rate of 17 percent between 2019 and 2029.  

Your job prospects are higher if you receive certification from a reputable organization, such as the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), National Healthcareer Association (NHA), the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), the National Phlebotomy Association, and the American Medical Technologists (AMT).

How do I get certified as a phlebotomist?

Certification is optional. However, possessing a certificate significantly increases your employment prospect. The Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT) or Registered Phlebotomy Technician (RPT) titles are offered by the following agencies:

  • American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)
  • American Medical Technologists (AMT)
  • American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians

As a certified phlebotomy technician, you could enhance your prospects further by obtaining a Donor Phlebotomy Technicians (DPT) certificate, which enables you to work in blood collection centers.

Bottom line

Blood analysis is a critical component of healthcare. As a phlebotomist, you will play a key role in helping medical practitioners address some of the top healthcare challenges we face today. In a role that combines compassion and empathy with the highest standards of accuracy and safety, there will almost never be a dearth of challenges. As a phlebotomist, you could also have flexibility in where and how you work. Also, if you’re interested in exploring a career in medicine, phlebotomy is a great place to start and could open up new avenues for you in this very exciting field.

Updated
October 17, 2020

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