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How to Become a Phlebotomist

Alternate Career Titles:

Phlebotomy Technician, Specialist of Phlebotomy

Phlebotomist Job Description: Phlebotomists draw patient blood needed for tests, transfusions and other purposes

Phlebotomist Salary (Annual): $35,510

Phlebotomist Salary Range: $26,000 to $49,750

How Long To Become a Phlebotomist: 6 weeks to 6 months

Required Minimum Degree/License: Postsecondary Non-degree Award

Phlebotomist Medical Career

Become a Phlebotomist

Career Description

The responsibilities of a Phlebotomist include drawing blood from patients for a number of reasons including testing, transfusions, research or blood donations. Additionally, Phlebotomists may need to explain what they will be doing to patients, advise them on possible reactions after their blood is drawn or provide immediate assistance if a reaction occurs.

After blood has been drawn, Phlebotomists will label each tube of blood, enter the patient’s information into a database, dispose of needles and maintain instruments. Furthermore, Phlebotomy Technicians are required to keep their work areas clean and sanitary at all times. This is not a career in healthcare designed for those who hate blood!

“My career as a Phlebotomist so far has been exciting, challenging and rewarding,” Aaron Ewell, CNA, CPT, a Phlebotomist practicing in Nevada, said. “I started as a mobile Phlebotomist working at blood drives in eastern Virginia, and now I work in a plasma center in Las Vegas.”

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Education & Training

To become a Phlebotomist, professionals must obtain a post-secondary non-degree award from a phlebotomy program. These programs are typically offered through community colleges, vocational schools and technical schools, and take less than one year to complete. Learn about other careers achievable in two years or less!

During these programs, learners will experience classroom sessions on topics such as anatomy, medical terminology and physiology. Additionally, there will be instruction given in regards to laboratory responsibilities, including how to identify, label and track samples of blood.

“To become a Phlebotomist you must enter a training program, either through a tech school or community college,” Ewell, who attended the American School of Nursing and Allied Health, confirmed. “The programs lengths vary from 6 weeks to 6 months. My course lasted eight weeks, and was a little challenging for me because the medical field is science-based and I was never really a fan of science.”

Lastly, all Phlebotomists are required to obtain professional certification, which can be done through passing a written and possibly practical exam offered by several organizations, such as the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), the National Healthcareer Association (NHA), the National Phlebotomy Association, the American Medical Technologists (AMT) and the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP).

“When looking into programs, learners should verify that a school meets the requirements to enable them to become certified,” Ewell stressed. “There are several different national certifications, but my certification is from the National Healthcareer Association and is a two-year certification. Many employers prefer to hire Phlebotomist that carry national certifications, even though they are not required by all states.”

Advancement

“Advancement is based on experience,” Ewell explained. “The next step up would be Lead or Senior Phlebotomist, then to become a Supervisor. A lot of people use phlebotomy as a springboard into nursing, later becoming LPNs or RNs.”

Ewell added that some professionals use phlebotomy to transition into careers in laboratory settings, often choosing to become a Medical Laboratory Technician. However, to enter this specific role, additional schooling is required. Other laboratory careers include that of an Laboratory Animal Caretaker and Toxicologist.

Experience & Skills

To be a successful Phlebotomist, these professionals should possess excellent hand-eye coordination above all. This is because drawing blood from patients requires a steady hand so that the task can be performed smoothly on the first attempt and with minimal patient discomfort. On a similar note, because Phlebotomy Technicians work closely with their hands and tiny instruments, they should be dexterous and therefore able to use the necessary equipment with efficiently and with ease.

Physical stamina is also important as these professional tend to spend long hours up on their feet. Lastly, Phlebotomists should have effective interpersonal and communication skills, allowing them to clearly express the intended procedure processes to patients, and so that they can relay messages to other healthcare professionals as needed.

“The experience necessary to succeed in this career is knowing how to ‘stick,’” Ewell added. “Every vein is different, including hard veins, rolling veins and deep veins, and the more you ‘stick’ the more experience you’ll gain from being able to recognize the specific type of vein.”

Personality

“You must have a caring and outgoing personality for this career,” Ewell stressed. “I have met a lot of donors that are covered with tattoos, yet are terrified of needles. As a Phlebotomist, your responsibility is to make patients feel as calm and comfortable as possible.”

Ewell added that making a patient feel comfortable could include doing something as simple as asking them how they feel, or if they are ready to have blood drawn. He noted that Phlebotomists must always keep in mind that not all patients are as comfortable with these procedures as others. Learn about other careers in allied health today!

Furthermore, the personality of a Specialist of Phlebotomy should include being kind and compassionate, as well as gentle. Some patients extremely dislike or are fearful of having blood drawn, therefore these professionals are responsible for trying to ease their concern. They should want to genuinely help their patients to feel as relaxed and comfortable during the blood drawing process as possible. In addition to catering to the emotional needs of patients, Phlebotomists need to be organized and detail-oriented, as all files of blood must be labeled with precision. If not labeled correctly, there exist the possibility for misguided test results or other critical errors.

Lifestyle

The majority of Phlebotomists work full-time schedules, and those who are employed by hospitals or other all-hour facilities may be required to work evenings, nights, weekends or holidays. Depending on the employer, Phlebotomists may also be asked to travel to sites and set up mobile donation centers, nursing care facilities for patient homes.

“Each day in the plasma center, I arrive on the donor floor and immediately gather my supplies, including gloves, hemostats, tape and iodine or alcohol, and report to my supervisor,” Ewell explained. “Some days I am assigned to my own bay of donors to stick, other days I’ll travel to all bays to stick donors alongside other Phlebotomists. This ‘team approach’ is known as ‘snaking.’”

Employment

Today is a great time to consider entering a career as a Phlebotomy Technician! Why? Over the next decade, employment of Phlebotomists is projected to grow 23 percent. This rate is much faster than the average for most occupations. This growth stems from an increased need for blood work to be performed in a variety of healthcare settings. Additionally, blood donations are also in great demand, therefore Specialists of Phlebotomy are needed to perform the collections.

The majority of Phlebotomists are employed by state, local and private hospitals, followed by medical and diagnostic laboratories. However, these professionals may also find employment opportunities through ambulatory healthcare services, the offices of Family Physicians or outpatient care centers. The state with the highest level of employment of Phlebotomists is California, followed by Texas, Florida, New York and California.

“Do not be discouraged, and do not give up if an opportunity does not arise immediately,” Ewell advised. “Finding employment in this field took me three months after I finished school. Stay proactive and continue applying to all open phlebotomy positions, because eventually an employer will give you a chance.”

Earnings

“I believe the earning potential in this career is above average. At least in my case I have been very fortunate salary-wise,” Ewell noted. “When you’re a new grad with no experience, your starting salary will be closer to $12.75 to $14 an hour, depending on the facility you work in and the location or state. As you climb the ladder, of course you’ll make more.”

The median annual wage for Phlebotomy Technicians was $35,510, whereas the highest 10 percent earned more than $49,750 and the lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,000. Additionally, the highest paying facility was outpatient care centers, followed closely by medical and diagnostic laboratories and the ambulatory healthcare services, the offices of Physicians and state, local and private hospitals. Top paying states within this occupation are California, Alaska, District of Columbia, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

“I was fortunate to start out on the higher end of the pay spectrum, but I also have management experience from another career field,” Ewell added. “Too often my classmates and I heard about new grads turning down positions because the salary wasn’t around $19 an hour, which I thought was unfortunate. Sometimes you may have to take what is offered to get your foot in the door.”

Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations

The National Phlebotomy Association (NPA) was established to help educate and certify the nation’s Phlebotomists. Furthermore, the purpose of this organization is to establish a professional standard and code of ethics for this group of professionals. The National Phlebotomy Association also helps develop an educational curriculum, provide accreditation, offer continued education programs and research issues involving Phlebotomy.

The American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians (ASPT)is a nationally and internationally recognized organization which offers the most current training and certifications available in the field.

“There’s also a Facebook page called ‘Love Being a Phlebotomist’ that I think would be helpful to other Phlebotomists,” Ewell mentioned.

Getting Started

  • Ask yourself, “Can I handle being around blood and needles?”
  • Potentially find a Phlebotomist to shadow for a shift
  • Research phlebotomy programs that fit budget and scheduling constraints
  • Apply to program(s)
  • Consider volunteering at blood banks, blood drives or other related workplace and events

All statistics are provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meet the professional: Aaron Ewell, CNA, CPT

Age: 31
Practice: Octapharma Plasma, Inc.
Location: Las Vegas, NV

What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?

“The biggest suggestion I can give is to be confident in your work. There will be days when you get every stick on the first try, then there will be days when you miss. Even after you miss, you have to maintain confidence.”

What’s the number one mistake people make when trying to get into this career?

“One mistake people make when trying to get into phlebotomy is believing that they do not have to practice. A large part of this occupation focuses on what you feel, meaning veins, and not necessarily about what you see. You must practice feeling for the veins, not just seeing them.”

What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?

“‘Is blood the only thing I am going to have to handle?’ The answer is ‘no.’ While Phlebotomists primarily handle blood samples, depending on which facility you work in you could also handle urine samples.”

Why did you choose to become a Phlebotomist?

“I became a Phlebotomist because I enjoy being able to help patients and donors. You will meet a lot of different people working in healthcare.”

If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would that be?

“Adaptability.”

Credentialing organizations: National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), National Health Career Association (NHA), the National Phlebotomy Association, American Medical Technologists (AMT) and American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)

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