Are you planning to start a career in phlebotomy? As a phlebotomist, who has the important task of drawing blood for medical purposes, you can help bridge the gap between patients and the laboratory.
Being a phlebotomist is one of the few medical jobs that doesn’t require an advanced education degree. It is an ideal position to consider aiming for if you plan to enter the health care field.
As a phlebotomist, you will gain new opportunities for career growth and direction. A job in phlebotomy can offer you flexibility since there are different types of health care settings you can work in.
If you’re wondering where you can work as a phlebotomist, what they do, and how to become one, you’ll find out in this guide.
What is a Phlebotomist?
A phlebotomist is a health care professional who is in charge of drawing blood for laboratory tests, blood donations, blood transfusions, etc. Phlebotomists handle various essential tasks in health care facilities, including the following:
- Collecting blood samples from patients and blood donors
- Conversing with patients and blood donors to comfort them and to minimize their nervousness about the blood collection procedure
- Confirming the identity of donors and patients to make certain that the blood samples are labeled correctly
- Recording patient information in the facility’s database
- Ensuring the cleanliness of their work environment
- Assembling the medical instruments needed for blood collection, including vials, needles, and test tubes
While the specific duties of each phlebotomist may vary, these are the common tasks that are assigned to phlebotomists.
How Can You Become a Phlebotomist?
The road to becoming a phlebotomist is more simple and straightforward than the average medical career. It can be a good starting point if you come from a different industry and you wish to switch to a career in the health care field.
You can prepare to become a phlebotomist by completing an accredited phlebotomy program. Programs for aspiring phlebotomists usually include classes on health and safety, anatomy and physiology, blood composition, medical terminology, and more. These courses may also involve clinical experience with hands-on training that teaches you blood drawing procedures and the proper use of laboratory equipment.
Certification programs for phlebotomists are commonly available in community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, and hospitals. On average, you can expect to finish a certification course in under a year.
You can pursue professional certification as a phlebotomist after you complete your phlebotomy training program. There are various organizations that offer Phlebotomy Technician certifications, such as the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), National Phlebotomy Association (NPA), American Medical Technologists (AMT), and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). Take note that the specific requirements for certification depend on each organization.
While only the states of California, Washington, Nevada, and Louisiana technically require certification for phlebotomists, many employers prefer to employ applicants who are officially certified as phlebotomists.
It is true that it is also possible for you to start working as a phlebotomist with only a high school diploma. There are some employers who don’t require certification and who offer on-the-job training for new phlebotomists.
However, we highly recommend that you complete a phlebotomy program and achieve certification to widen your career options as a phlebotomist.
Where Can I Work as a Phlebotomist?
Since their work is versatile, phlebotomists are employed in a variety of places. Here are some examples of the typical health care settings where you can work as a phlebotomist:
A lot of phlebotomists work in hospital settings. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 37% of phlebotomists are hired by state, local, and private hospitals. In a hospital environment, phlebotomists are usually assigned to draw blood samples from patients, properly label the samples, and transport the samples to the laboratory for testing.
As a phlebotomist, you will interact with a wide spectrum of patients who need to have their blood drawn for diverse reasons, ranging from wellness checkups to screening tests for diseases. No matter what they’re being tested for, many people tend to feel anxious about having blood work done. That’s why part of your responsibility is to calm the nerves of your patients and to guide them throughout the process.
One of the benefits of working in a hospital as a phlebotomist is that you can collaborate with different types of health care professionals. Whether you consider your job as a phlebotomist technician as a stepping stone to another medical position or you plan to explore other roles in the phlebotomy field, there are important things you can learn from other professionals.
By getting to know your colleagues, you can learn about their role in the hospital, their daily work routines, and their professional journey in the health care world.
Medical and Diagnostic Labs
Around 33% of phlebotomists in the US work in medical and diagnostic laboratories. Patients usually go to these laboratories if they just need a blood test and don’t require other kinds of medical care.
Phlebotomists who work in laboratories commonly draw blood from a lot of patients and process a lot of blood samples during a typical workday. Here is the main reason why: Lab appointments are fast since they don’t usually involve as many detailed questions as a typical checkup in the hospital. The results of the lab tests, which phlebotomists help to facilitate, may either be picked up by the patients or sent directly to the patients’ doctors.
One advantage that lab phlebotomists have is that they get enough opportunities to actively practice and hone their blood drawing skills.
Some doctors with private practice offices hire on-site phlebotomists for the convenience of their patients.
When you work at a physician’s office as a phlebotomist, the type of patients you will commonly encounter depends on the doctor’s specialty. You may have to face unique challenges based on the medical branch you are involved in. For instance, if you work in a pediatrician’s office, you will regularly need to calm down young patients before and after you draw their blood samples.
In general, phlebotomists who are employed in doctors’ offices enjoy a more relaxed, casual pace than their counterparts who work in fast-paced, busy laboratories.
Outpatient Care Centers
There are outpatient care centers that recruit their own in-house phlebotomists. Ambulatory centers — such as dialysis clinics, free health clinics, ambulatory surgical centers, free health clinics, and hospital outpatient departments — provide health care on an outpatient basis.
Phlebotomists who practice in outpatient centers cater to patients who require blood work in relation to their medical treatment. Because of the roving nature of their work, they have the chance to meet people from all walks of life.
Mobile phlebotomists visit the homes of patients who are not physically capable of going to a hospital or a laboratory. They perform blood collection for medical tests in the comfort of the patients’ homes.
Mobile phlebotomists commonly work for the Visiting Nurse Association or hospice organizations. Extra travel is a part of their job since they need to drop by different patients’ homes and to go to the laboratory to bring the samples.
Being a mobile phlebotomist is a perfect option for those who like being on the move.
Blood Donation Centers and Blood Drives
Blood donation centers and blood drives are venues where the services of phlebotomists are central and highly essential.
Phlebotomists who work in blood donation centers usually deal with healthy people who wish to donate blood. The blood they collect is not used for medical tests; instead, it is given to patients who need blood.
The blood samples that phlebotomists draw from donors are commonly donated to patients in emergency rooms and intensive care units who have lost blood or suffered trauma due to accidents or illnesses. The recipients also include patients who need blood transfusions as part of their medical treatment for sickness or injuries.
What is My Career Outlook as an Aspiring Phlebotomist?
The average annual salary for phlebotomists is $35,510, although your exact wages will depend on your experience and the health care setting you work in. Phlebotomists who are employed in outpatient care centers and medical laboratories tend to be on the higher end of the pay scale, while those who work in hospitals are usually on the lower end.
The job of a phlebotomist is not the highest paying one, but it is certainly a rewarding one. It provides you the opportunity to play a small yet crucial role in patients’ health care experience. It also gives you the chance to bring comfort to patients in a situation that could potentially be uncomfortable for them. And of course, by working as a phlebotomist, you can become a part of the health care industry with relatively minimal educational effort and work experience.
If you are a phlebotomist or a health care professional looking for freelance work or an aspiring phlebotomist who is curious to see what career opportunities are available, sign up with Clipboard Health to start browsing job openings.