Phlebotomy careers have a projected 25 percent job growth rate between 2014 and 2024. A phlebotomist is a health science professional responsible for drawing blood during medical procedures.
Some of their basic duties include ensuring the correct quantity is taken and it is all labeled properly. Phlebotomists may work in a number of medical settings, including medical laboratories, hospitals, health clinics, doctor’s offices and blood donor centers.
Phlebotomists perform a number of tasks, including confirming a patient’s or donor’s identity, drawing blood, labeling samples and entering pertinent data into a computer. They may have to provide reassurance to patients who are nervous about having their blood drawn and explain to those who are interested what procedures they are taking. They also assemble and maintain equipment to prevent complications like infections. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has found phlebotomists have average upward mobility and flexibility but above-average levels of stress.
If you get squeamish at the site of blood or you are afraid of needles, then you probably are not cut out to be a phlebotomist. In order to be a good phlebotomist, you must enjoy helping people and have both a steady hand and a keen eye for detail. In addition to blood and needles, phlebotomists must also be comfortable dealing with test tubes, blood vials and medical databases.
As a phlebotomist, you will be spending a lot of time in health care environments surrounded by people uncertain about their health and medical futures. You must be able to maintain your own mental and emotional well-being to do your job from day to day. Compassion for others and patience with people are other qualities useful in these environments. As a phlebotomist, you may be expected to work odd hours, including some holidays, weekends and evenings.
Other skills a good phlebotomist should have include:
A typical work day for a phlebotomist starts out by receiving orders in the morning. Since the blood is closest to a state of homeostasis early in the mornings, this tends to be the best time of day to draw blood from people. Therefore, phlebotomists generally start work early in the mornings. As phlebotomists sort orders and collect the necessary samples, they must carefully confirm each patient’s identity by name, date of birth and medical record.
When you draw blood, you must apply a tourniquet above the site, choose a vein, clean the skin over the area, insert the needle and draw the blood to be tested or stored for transfusion. Everyone’s veins are different, so you must be able to learn how to find veins in all sorts of patients, including those of seniors and children.
Phlebotomy is as much about your demeanor with people and easing them through the experience as it is about the science of collecting blood. Once the blood is drawn, you have to label it and prepare it for the lab, including placing it in a centrifuge for a certain amount of time in order to separate the blood from the plasma.
Phlebotomists do not need a particular post-graduate college education, although most employers prefer candidates who have taken a phlebotomy certification program and received professional certification. Even if these are not strict requirements for your job, you may receive higher pay if you have this certification.
Many phlebotomists also choose to get associate’s degrees in any health care subject or a medical technology bachelor’s degree. You can find educational programs in phlebotomy at technical schools, vocational schools and community colleges where other medical and health care courses are offered.
Certification programs in phlebotomy typically take one year to complete, concluding with a final exam to receive certification. Phlebotomy certification programs can be found through the following organizations, among other state certification programs that may be available in your area:
Topics phlebotomy students must learn include proper blood specimen handling, safety procedures, skin puncture techniques, vascular physiology, vascular anatomy and venipuncture.
Certification and licensing for phlebotomists is regulated by states. Some states require either a certificate or a license, while other states require both. Louisiana and Nevada, for example, require phlebotomists to be certified, while California requires both a certification and a license. After you complete a phlebotomy certification program, you can get certified through the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians and the National Phlebotomy Association.
Certified phlebotomists must renew their phlebotomy certifications annually, with continuing education required to maintain certification. Valid continuing education subjects include patient injury and lawsuits, venipuncture and blood contamination.
In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the median salary for phlebotomists was $32,710 and the average phlebotomists’ salary was $33,750. There is an expected 24 percent growth in the field, with 30,000 new phlebotomist positions expected to be taken by the year 2026. This should make it relatively easy to find a job as a phlebotomist. This growth rate is significantly faster than the average growth rate for jobs in general.
Phlebotomy currently has a 3.6 percent industry unemployment rate. Compared with other health care careers, phlebotomists make about the same as medical assistants and slightly more than nursing aides, but somewhat less than clinical laboratory techs and dental assistants.
Within the field of phlebotomy, the salary range varies depending on certain circumstances of the given phlebotomist’s position, as follows:
Phlebotomists also typically earn benefits like health care, pension, education reimbursement, paid time off, sick days, bonuses and insurance. Salary experts project these benefits add approximately 33.8 percent to the cash value of the average phlebotomists’ salary, making it equivalent to around $48,810.