Phlebotomists work in medical laboratories drawing patients' blood and preparing and processing it for testing. Other responsibilities may include maintaining patients' records, sterilizing equipment and explaining procedures to patients. "Handling screaming, crying and fainting patients" who are uncomfortable around blood and needles also goes with the territory, according to All Allied Health Schools.
Although educational requirements vary by employer, phlebotomists usually are required to have a high school diploma or equivalent, such as GED. Completion of an accredited phlebotomist program, which typically takes between a semester and a year to finish, is typically necessary as well. Coursework in these programs covers subjects such as phlebotomy techniques and the anatomy and physiology of the circulatory system.
Hands-on training and additional on-the-job education are common within the field of phlebotomy. Internships and coursework typically incorporate a significant amount of practice in drawing blood through vein and skin punctures.
California and Louisiana require people other than doctors, nurses and clinical lab scientists to be licensed in order to draw blood; in the rest of the United States, if properly supervised, phlebotomists don't necessarily have to be licensed or certified. Practically speaking, though, certification is a significant advantage when trying to land a phlebotomist job.
There are three associations that certify phlebotomists: the American Society for Clinical Pathology, the Association of Phlebotomy Technicians and the National Phlebotomy Association. Specific requirements vary among these organizations, but they all require some level of education and experience, as well as an exam. Typically, certification must be renewed annually.
In addition to meeting an employer's requirements for education, experience and certification, phlebotomists should have good analytical judgment, be good problem solvers and be able to work well under pressure. Attention to detail is important, as minor variations in lab results can be crucial in making a diagnosis. Dexterity in the hands and normal color vision are useful, as are computer skills, since much lab equipment is automated.
Phlebotomists might consider becoming certified as donor phlebotomy technicians, which would qualify them to work in blood-collection centers, according to the American Society for Clinical Pathology. As they gain experience, phlebotomists also have the opportunity to diversify into roles such as lab supervisors, EKG technicians and administrative positions.
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