Become a Phlebotomist! The Ultimate Guide
Find out what it takes to become a professional phlebotomist, increase your skills and raise your income! Feel free to leave a comment if the guide helped you or if you have any question! Thanks!
Phlebotomist Job Description and Training Requirements
The phlebotomist is a healthcare professional who draws blood from patients. They take blood samples, label them, enter them into a database and transport them to the lab. These samples are tested for health issues such as cholesterol, bacteria, and diseases. The phlebotomist can work in many different kinds of medical facilities such as private labs, blood banks, and hospitals. The phlebotomist job description can vary from employer to employer.
Watch the video to find out what’s it like to work as a phlebotomist!
Job Duties of the Phlebotomist
Working as a phlebotomist can be a very rewarding profession. The phlebotomist is responsible for drawing blood from patients. They’ll work with a wide variety of patients from infants to adults on a daily basis. Depending on where they work, they may work with a specific age group more than any other. For example, working at a children’s hospital will mean that the phlebotomist will regularly work with children, teens, and infants.
When your day begins, prior to seeing patients, you’ll first need to ensure that the room you’re working in is well stocked and the room itself, in addition to any tools you use, are sterile.
As a phlebotomist, you’ll be responsible for drawing blood from patients. You’ll also be responsible for preparing the samples for transport, documenting the amount of blood taken and entering it into a database and ensuring that the patient’s medical information and home address are correct. This position will also require you to determine the best method for the blood draw depending on the specific patient, and centrifuge the samples depending on if this duty is allowed to be carried out by a phlebotomist based on state regulations.
While venipuncture is the most common method for drawing blood, a phlebotomist will also need to perform artery collection and dermal puncture.
There are many patients who experience anxiety when having their blood drawn. As a phlebotomist, it will be your responsibility to explain the procedure and help to ease a patient’s anxiety.
This position also requires following strict precautionary safety measures in order to reduce the risk of contact with potentially infectious bodily fluids, tissues, and blood. You’ll need to be familiar with the policies and laws that are related to the handling of hazardous materials.
Labeling and record keeping are also major duties for this job. The phlebotomist will need to ensure that the right tests are performed on the correct specimens.
Other Job Duties
Most phlebotomists are also responsible for ordering their own supplies and taking inventory, communicating with patients, doctors, nurses, and other medical staff, and scheduling patient appointments. If you work in a smaller facility, you’ll have a wider range of job duties including answering the phones, updating patient’s charts and cleaning and stocking the blood draw room at the beginning and at the end of the day.
If you work at a blood bank you may be required to participate in blood drives, working with a large volume of volunteers donating blood. Often, a state will require the phlebotomist to undergo additional training to learn how to draw larger volumes of blood, safely.
Possible places for employment can include private practices, general hospitals, pediatric hospitals, clinics, and blood banks.
Training in this Field
Ultimately, the type of duties you’re able to perform will be based on state laws and regulations. Currently, only a few states require phlebotomy training and certification, but most employers will not hire a phlebotomist who doesn’t have a formal background in this field.
Phlebotomy training and job duties differ from state to state. Generally, you should expect to enroll in a phlebotomy program that lasts two to nine months, in addition to a clinical period where you’ll work alongside professional phlebotomists and learn how to properly perform the venipuncture procedure. Most classes will prepare you for the clinical portion of the program. The clinical work is probably the most exciting and terrifying portion of the program. The length of field work requirements will depend on the length of the program itself. Typically, most programs offer clinical training that will take two to four weeks to complete.
Clinical training will involve working with professional phlebotomists, shadowing them as they perform different types of blood draw procedures. This type of training is very hands on. In the beginning, you’ll work on volunteers or fellow classmates, practicing venipuncture, but towards the end of the program, you’ll need to successfully complete a blood draw on an actual patient. If you want to become a certified phlebotomist, you’ll need to complete a minimum of a hundred successful venipunctures before you’re eligible for the exam.
After the completion of in-class work and clinical work, you’ll receive a certification of completion.
Why you’ll Love the Phlebotomy Career
Working is the field can be the perfect entry level position for anyone who’s interested in a career in the medical field. Aside from completing a training program, the phlebotomist must also have excellent people and communication skills, not to mention patience. They must also have great attention to detail and the ability to work well in a fast-paced environment.
Many careers in the medical field will require several years of training and clinical work. Because this position only requires the completion of a certificate program, it’s a great way to earn essential experience in the healthcare field. This quick path to an exciting healthcare career, with excellent benefits, salary and job security is why this job has seen a significant boom during the last few years. To learn more about how to become a phlebotomist see our guide.
A number of professionals in the healthcare industry have used their experience in this field to springboard their career further in the medical field. Since the phlebotomist can work in a variety of medical facilities, they’re exposed to a number of potential career options. For those individuals looking to further their careers, going back to school part-time in a medical related field while working part or full-time as a phlebotomist can even count towards mandatory clinical training hours required for other positions.
The average salary for this position ranges from $34,000 to $42,000 depending on training, education level, experience, and employer. Usually, phlebotomists with more than five years of experience can earn around $44,000 annually.
How to Become a Phlebotomist in Under a Year
The amount of training required regarding how to become a phlebotomist can potentially vary from state to state based on phlebotomy certification requirements. This type of career can enable the professional to work with a wide variety of medical professionals performing blood draws at blood banks, hospitals, and other healthcare sites. As an example, a phlebotomist can travel to a client’s home collecting blood samples from life insurance applicants in order to determine the applicant’s eligibility.
Education and Training in Phlebotomy
The phlebotomist typically collects blood using the venipuncture procedure, which involves puncturing a vein to obtain a blood sample. Because of this, the aspiring phlebotomist will need to be comfortable working with needles and blood. However, in order to perform this type of procedure correctly, the phlebotomist must first complete a training program which covers how to perform venipuncture procedures safely and correctly, so that a student will understand the essential steps they need to take in order to avoid injuring the patient and how to protect themselves when working with blood.
Training programs in phlebotomy will usually take a year or less to complete depending on the particular school, program, and whether a student pursues certification. Some states will also have additional certification requirements in order for phlebotomists to be eligible for employment.
A training program can take as little as eight weeks or up to nine months to finish, depending on the program and school type. Programs offered at vocational schools can usually be completed quicker, whereas a community college commonly offers longer programs. Completing both clinical and instructional hours is essential to obtaining a diploma or certificate in order to qualify for employment.
Keep in mind, national certification is not usually required, but it can be helpful in obtaining employment. This can take several months to complete, depending on how well the student is prepared for the exam.
Phlebotomy certification is only required in a few states, so it’s possible to start working as a phlebotomist in under a year.
These following traits can be essential to individuals interested in pursuing a career in phlebotomy:
Because some people don’t like to have their blood drawn, a phlebotomist needs to be compassionate and understanding about a patient’s fear and anxiety. For more on this see our job description.
Since the phlebotomist inserts a needle into the vein, they need to be precise and accurate in what they do. The ability to successfully insert the needle into the vein with the first attempt is essential, as is good hand-eye coordination.
Not only will a phlebotomist need to be able to draw blood, they must also be able to do so in the correct amount, and do so for multiple tests. Phlebotomists are also responsible for correctly labeling the sample, tracking the sample, and entering it into a database. The phlebotomist must be extremely careful not to incorrectly label or mix up samples.
Many phlebotomists will work in a lab setting, while others will work for insurance companies or ambulatory services, which provides more flexibility for employment.
If you’re interested in how to become a phlebotomist, here are some general steps you need to take:
First, finish high school. In order to be accepted into a phlebotomy training program, a student will need a diploma or GED. In some cases, the aspiring phlebotomist may be able to begin their career right out of high school, however, most employers prefer postsecondary education.
Enroll into an accredited postsecondary training program. These programs typically take less than a year to complete and result in a diploma or certificate. These training programs are offered at community colleges or vocational schools. A program will offer training in anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology. Lab work and in-class learning are important components.
Once accepted into a program, a student will have to pay fees and tuition. Often, these fees will not cover the cost of uniforms or textbooks.When searching for a program, look for one that has been approved by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Lab Sciences. This accredited agency has approved more than sixty programs nationwide and features a list of approved schools on their website. An accredited program means that a specific school has reached and maintained certain education standards in phlebotomy.
Optional Phlebotomy Certification
Even if your state doesn’t require it, pursue certification. The majority of employers prefer to hire applicants who have certification in this field. You can pursue certification through the NCCT, ASCP, and the AMT.
There are different paths you can take in order to become eligible for certification, but typically, graduating from an accredited training program is the most pursued option. Also, a required amount of clinical experience is often necessary if you’re seeking national certification. Once you’re eligible, you’ll need to take and pass a three-hour long exam.
These exams usually require a fee. The exams will vary based on the certifying agency.
The National Center for Competency Testing provides an exam that features over a hundred questions and a total of twenty pretest items. A student will have a total of three hours to complete the exam and may also be required to demonstrate knowledge of venipuncture procedures.
Why Voluntary Certification in Phlebotomy Matters
In some states, certification is required in order to be eligible for employment. These states include California, Louisiana, and Nevada.
In order to maintain valid certification, the phlebotomist must complete a certain amount of continuing education hours. The amount of hours required tends to vary based on the certifying agency. However, the completion of these hours in addition to an annual fee is commonly required.
Obtaining certification will show that the certified phlebotomist is dedicated to maintaining quality work. It also shows that the individual has met education and knowledge standards that have been set by a third-party agency.
On top of this, obtaining optional certification can also significantly increase employment prospects. While earning certification in phlebotomy may take some extra work, not to mention ongoing commitment, it can result in a higher paying position.
Phlebotomist Certification Online Training
Phlebotomist certification online training programs are designed to prepare graduates to draw blood safely and painlessly. In order for a student to gain the type of hands-on experience that’s necessary for this profession, all online programs will feature in-person requirements, but these can typically be completed at a local school. The phlebotomist can find employment through a wide variety of medical facilities. They can work in small practices, clinics, hospitals, blood donation centers, and blood banks. Obtaining certification as a phlebotomist cannot be achieved online, but these hybrid training programs will cover all of the material included in the certification exam, so graduates will be well prepared to take the test once the program is completed.
Hybrid Training Programs for a Degree Phlebotomy
Phlebotomy is commonly considered a career specialization for lab techs and medical assistants and doesn’t usually contain any strongly delineated specializations within its own practice. There are several varied techniques within the field of phlebotomy, such as finger stick withdrawal and venipuncture. A phlebotomist will typically be trained in all common blood draw techniques.
Associate’s degree programs in phlebotomy are rare, but they are out there. You can find this type of training program through a community college. In a degree program, students will delve deeper into blood drawing practices while learning how to deal with various issues in the medical field such as proper safety protocols, handling of hazardous materials and patient interaction. Aside from the classes that are available in a certificate program, the associate’s degree program will also include general studies courses with a focus on anatomy, physiology, and biology.
Since clinical work is often a part of phlebotomy training programs, students enrolled in an online program will be required to complete some of the courses at a local clinic or on campus.
The online associate’s degree program will prepare students for an entry-level career in this field. Much of the training is focused on technical procedures and laboratory fundamentals. Prerequisites can include general psychology, anatomy, technical writing, medical terminology, and basic computers.
The course curriculum consists of lab skills and clinical work. Areas covered by the curriculum include clinical chemistry, anatomy, cultural diversity in the medical field, health profession skills, health professions management, blood banking, phlebotomy procedures, coagulation and hematology, and pathophysiology. Students will also be required to complete a medical lab practicum to develop their practical skills in this field.
Certificate Programs in Phlebotomy
The options for education and certification in phlebotomy are equally varied because of the variety of areas in which the phlebotomist can practice their craft. Hospitals, private practices, and individual states will all have different standards in regard to training and experience. Most employers will accept certification from one of the many certifying entities that administer phlebotomy certification exams.
Because licensing and certification regulations tend to vary from state to state, aspiring phlebotomists should contact their state board of health in order to learn about state-specific certification requirements.
Teaching hospitals, vocational schools, and community colleges offer certificate programs in phlebotomy. Many of these programs are also accredited, which will allow the graduate to obtain certification once they have completed the required clinical hours. A typical certificate program will offer both the clinical component and in-class learning. The clinical portion of the program will take place at a community clinic or local hospital. Students will first practice blood draws on mannequins before they move onto working with classmates and actual patients. A student will be scheduled to work different shifts in order to gain practical experience with blood draws from patients of different ages who are injured or ill.
The classes required in this program will usually include the following core topics: blood collection equipment, basic lab values including microbiology and hematology, appropriate disposal of hazardous waste, physiology and anatomy of the body systems, accuracy in patient care, case studies, hospital epidemiology, newborn screens and skin punctures, skin puncture site selection, post-puncture procedures, medical terminology, and the hazards of complications.
Online Certification Training in Phlebotomy
As we have mentioned, hybrid programs will require you to attend some of the courses on campus in order to earn hands-on experience. But many of the classes we have listed above can be completed online. During this time, most courses will also include a certification training course that’s designed to prepare you for the extensive certification exam that you must take in order to earn mandatory or voluntary certification. These courses will feature many of the questions you can expect on the exam. This will allow you to study and properly prepare for the test, through practiced learning, quizzes, and student discussions.
Taking the Certification Exam
Despite the shorter training requirements for this career field, the certification exam is pretty tough, requiring many students to enroll in additional courses that will solely focus on certification exam preparation.
The certification exam typically features more than a hundred questions. Students will have to pay a fee of $200 to $300, depending on which certifying agency is administering the exam. All agencies will give students three hours to complete the exam. Many of these agencies also require a practical portion of the exam in which the student must perform a venipuncture procedure on a mannequin, under the supervision of a licensed phlebotomist.
Should you fail to pass the exam, most of these certifying agencies will allow you to retake it one additional time per year, for a fee.
Part of the certification requirements involves earning continuing education credits through additional online courses, seminars, or workshops. Some agencies will also allow students to retake the exam in lieu of fulfilling the continuing education hour requirements. States that require mandatory certification will often have stricter continuing education requirements that can also involve retaking the certification exam every two years in addition to completing a determined amount of training hours each year.
While currently, only three states require phlebotomists to earn certification, it can be difficult to find an employer who does not require their employees to have voluntary certification in this field.
Phlebotomy Training in a Lab Setting
The phlebotomist is responsible for obtaining blood samples for a variety of testing purposes. Because this is a very delicate process, extensive phlebotomy training is essential, especially to ensure that mistakes are avoided and the phlebotomist is able to obtain the blood sample without damaging the vein and causing patient discomfort or pain.
What to Expect from a Training Program in Phlebotomy
Choosing the puncture site is one of the most delicate steps of the entire process. One wrong move can cause increased pain to the patient. Because of this, the aspiring phlebotomist must take a wide range of courses in physiology, human anatomy, proper blood draw techniques, and patient interaction.
Basic infection control is another main focus in any phleb training program. Blood carries infections that may be contagious. In order to ensure the safety of the patient and phlebotomist, basic infection control is a high priority. There are universal safety precautions that must be followed in order to prevent the transmission of bloodborne pathogens. Students will learn more about risk categorization for every type of specimen, in addition to lab safety precautions and vaccinations.
A program instructor will teach phlebotomy students about the dangers of accidental needle sticks. Students will learn how to prevent such contact and what to do in the event this type of accident occurs. This includes thoroughly washing the stick site while promoting bleeding by applying pressure to the site, which can help to flush a contaminant from the system.
Another course of study is a focus on safety procedures to follow before, during, and after a blood draw. Students will learn how to avoid spilling bodily fluids, the type of personal protective gear that’s required and they’ll also learn about the common biosafety and microbiological practices.
A training program will teach students how to use blood draw equipment and dispose of hazardous waste properly. Every hospital or lab uses proper disposal systems that the phlebotomist must also use accordingly and at all times.
Decontaminating all equipment in the lab and using the proper protective gear in order to prevent cross-contamination between specimens is also a crucial part of a training program.
Learning How a Phlebotomy Lab Works
The phlebotomist will typically work in a clinical lab where many tests are performed for a variety of reasons. A lab can be home to several departments, such as clinical pathology, and anatomic pathology. With all of the equipment and machines and steps involved for a single test, it’s important that the aspiring phlebotomist undergoes extensive training in regard to basic lab setups and equipment usage. Often, this class will take place is a mock lab setup which will allow the students to test out and operate machinery as they learn how to properly care for and maintain certain types of lab equipment.
The training course on phlebotomy equipment will mainly focus on the phlebotomy tray. A student will learn about the different tools and components used during a blood draw and how to properly stock their tray for the day, how to sterilize the equipment and how to minimize the risk of infection or cross contamination between patients.
The phlebotomist’s tray comes equipped with a variety of tools that are needed for a routine venipuncture procedure. While some other pieces of equipment may be added based on puncture site or the type of tests that will be carried out, the basic phlebotomy tray will include:
Evacuated collection tubes which allow a pre-determined amount of blood to be collected by vacuum. These tubes come with color coded tops which indicate the type of coating or additive that’s in them. These tubes are placed in an adapter or holder, which will keep them organized based on the order of the draw.
The type of needles used by the phlebotomist will vary in bore size. If the gauge of the needle is large, the bore is small. These needles are used with a butterfly system or single draw system.
The tourniquet is another essential tool used in most venipuncture procedures. The tourniquet is used to make veins more prominent and allow for venous blood flow. Latex-free tourniquets are now the standard and will help to prevent allergic reactions in patients with a latex sensitivity.
Alcohol wipes are commonly used to disinfect the site. A minimum of seventy percent of isopropyl alcohol must be used.
Sharps containers, which are needle disposal units, are compact containers that hold used needles after a procedure is completed. These containers help to minimize the risk of an accidental needle stick and contamination.
Other equipment used on the phlebotomy tray includes syringes, adhesives, and cotton balls or gauze sponges.
A Walk-Through Venipuncture Training
Another essential part of a phlebotomy program is a course on routine venipuncture procedures. This is a standard in every training program and it provides students with an in-depth look at this delicate procedure. At the end of the in-class portion of the program, students will participate in a hands-on training program where they will work with real patients to perform a determined number of venipunctures in order to graduate from the program.
This course will detail the steps of the venipuncture process, such as patient identification, assessment of a patient’s condition and disposition prior to the blood draw, how to obtain patient information, and blood draw site selection. The program instructor will walk students through the patient, puncture site, and equipment preparation.
Next, students will learn how to perform the actual procedure, how to place the sample in the appropriate container, the importance of checking for possible complications, labeling the samples, and sample transportation. The differences in skin puncture procedures in infants, adults, and the elderly will also be discussed.
Students will perform their first several venipunctures on mannequin arms before moving on to practicing this procedure on fellow classmates. By the end of in-class training, students will be well prepared to perform blood draws on real patients at a local medical facility.
These basic phlebotomy training courses will provide students with an in-depth look at this exciting health care field. Enrolling in a training program is the first step towards earning certification in phlebotomy and landing a decent paying position in the medical field.
Phlebotomy Test Preparation and Resources
While taking the phlebotomy test is only mandatory in a few states, voluntary certification is often required by employers. For this reason, you should seriously consider taking the certification exam, in order to increase your chances of landing a job once you’ve completed an accredited phlebotomy training program.
The test itself is intimidating. Not only is it expensive, but it takes around three hours to complete. While some phlebotomy programs may include exam prep classes or study groups, others do not, so you’ll be on your own. Asking a lot of questions and interacting with other students in class or online will help you to learn more about the areas you’re struggling with, but once the program is over, you’ll need to look for other test preparation resources such as online study guides, practice tests, and phlebotomy forums.
How to Choose the Phlebotomy Certifying Agency
Each certifying organization will impose their own set of rules when it comes to testing. There are small differences between the requirements you must meet to qualify for certification, so you should definitely check out these requirements before applying to take the exam. Here are a few things to consider:
Because not every accreditation agency is the same so be sure to check if a particular organization is recognized by the state where you want to work and live. While most of these organizations are recognized nationwide, California currently only recognizes six of these organizations.
While it’s easy to sign up for the exam online you’ll need to take the test at a college, community college, or testing facility. In some cases, this can require a little travel.
The price of this exam is expensive, with a cost that can range from $150 to $300. Some organizations offer financial aid, which will pay for a portion of the testing fees. Keep in mind, should you fail the test, you’ll need to pay this fee each time you retake it.
What to Expect from the Phlebotomy Certification Exam
Each certification exam will be slightly different. Test length can range from one hundred up to three hundred questions and will cover all aspects of the field.
Some institutions will include a practical component as well. As an example, the American Certification Agency has both a practical component and written exam. The practical portion is sometimes offered at the same facility you received your training and will require you to perform a blood draw, label samples, and identify the layers of the epidermis. The written portion of the exam will take two to three hours to complete, while the practical portion will take approximately an hour.
The American Society for Clinical Pathology is one agency that provides a written exam but doesn’t include a practical component.
What Happens if you Fail the Exam?
If you don’t pass the test, the good news is, you’ll be able to retake it, although, as we mentioned, you’ll have to pay a second fee. The key to passing the exam the second time around will involve focusing on the areas you struggled with the first time.
This exam will cover a wide variety of topics such as:
- Tube order of draw
- Following the proper safety protocols when handling hazardous materials
- Correct equipment used during a venipuncture
- Sample collection practices
- Phlebotomy ethics
- How to handle and store samples
- Different components of blood
The questions in the exam are based on procedures and standards that were developed by the Laboratory and Clinical Standards Institute. These questions refer to common phlebotomy procedures such as skin puncture and venipuncture. You can visit their website for study resources. The site offers plenty of study resource material including a list of suggested reading material and other types of preparation materials.
How to Study for the Phlebotomy Exam
There are plenty of resources you can turn to for help in preparation of the exam. You can find a wide variety of online study guides and practice exams that will cover much of the same material found in the certification exam.
The Phlebotomy National study guide can also be found online and it provides some basic testing material that will detail everything from the procedures to regulations that will be covered in the exam. You can easily convert these questions into flashcards.
Taking practice tests will give you a good idea of what areas you need to focus on in order to pass, but try not to solely focus on those areas. The exam itself is pretty board.
Practice tests and study guides will go a long way toward helping you to prepare.
Studying Tips for the Phlebotomy Exam
Because the exam is so broad, we recommend reviewing all of the course material at least once a week.
If you take an online exam and fail, try to stay positive. Set your mind on success. If you’re studying hard, you have every reason to believe you will eventually learn this material.
While it may sound boring, developing a study routine can help you to perform better and can improve concentration. Set up a time and place for studying and stick to your plan. After an hour of studying you can reward yourself with your favorite meal, an hour break just relaxing around the home, or head out for some strong coffee.
Get plenty of sleep. When you’re tired, the brain has trouble focusing and processing new information. Shoot for at least seven hours of sleep a night.
Never give up. Even if you fail the first time, don’t throw in the towel. You may need to change up your preparation strategies and figure out a method of studying that helps you to retain information, such as using flashcards, taking online practice tests daily, or forming your own study group.
Join forums and talk phlebotomy with the pros. You can discuss all aspects of phlebotomy, but more importantly, you can discuss the phlebotomy test and the type of studying techniques others used that were effective.
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