A phlebotomist is someone who collects blood for laboratory testing or transfusion under the supervision of a medical doctor, research doctor, or other medical practitioner. A person must be properly trained in a classroom on the protocols to follow so that patients are safe.
Although most states do not require certification or licensing, it is very difficult to find a job without the proper training. Three organizations provide tests to certify a person’s ability. These organizations are:
- The American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP)
- The American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians
- The National Phlebotomy Association (NPA)
Along with the proper training and supervision, the prospective phlebotomist is tested and certified in each skill before he or she gets to collect specimens. Recertification is required every three years as well as continuing education courses.
Collection of blood may be performed using venipuncture, finger sticks, or heel sticks. Some phlebotomists may also collect urine samples to check for blood. In some cases, the phlebotomist may collect blood from the artery of the wrist or brachial artery; however, to do this procedure does require special training.
The job of a phlebotomist is very important to a hospital and medical practice in that the testing of blood helps medical practitioners diagnosis the health of a patient. Doctors rely on these tests to help treat diseases. Blood banks also rely on the work of a phlebotomist to collect plasma and whole blood for transfusions, surgeries, and medical procedures. Jobs for a phlebotomist can be found in many settings, including prison and military base hospitals, hospices, public health clinics, various labs, and home health agencies.
To become a good phlebotomist, a person needs certain characteristics, including compassion, the ability to withdraw blood carefully from veins, interest in adhering to standards and procedures to manage sterile samples, and patience in dealing with difficult and emergency situations. The phlebotomist should be computer savvy with the ability to maintain accurate records. The training a phlebotomist can vary in length; however, a typical syllabus may include anatomy of the arm, CPR, using a tourniquet, drug testing, sample handling, preventing infections, and working with patients.
Each state establishes its own phlebotomists training requirements; however, for the most part, applicants should have at least a high school diploma. This field is becoming more competitive, so it would be wise for prospective candidates to conduct internships at hospitals, doctor’s offices, or clinics so that they can use this experience on their résumés.
According to Payscale.com, the highest phlebotomist salary goes to people with more than years in the field. The average phlebotomist salary range is between $18,000 and $61,000 a year. Many people still get paid an hourly wage averaging about $10 per hour to $18 per hour. Up to 88 percent of people working in this field are women, and the highest salaries are given to people with technical phlebotomy certificates. The most popular employers tend to be the American Red Cross, the United States Air Force, Labcorp of America, Quest Diagnostics, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The average phlebotomist salary range at Labcorp and Quest Diagnostics is between $25,000 and $36,000 per year. The highest salaries are obtained in Houston, Texas, with a high of $45,000 a year and Los Angeles, California, with $49,000 per year. Other cities with the highest hourly rates were Boston and Worchester, Massachusetts; Harford, Connecticut; San Jose, Long Beach, and San Francisco, California; and Newark, New Jersey. With experience, other career opportunities the phlebotomist might consider could include the following:
- Medical or Clinical Laboratory Technologist
- Surgical Technologist
- Medical or Clinical Laboratory Technician
- Certified Dialysis Technician
- Sterile Processing Technologist
- Lab Technologist
- Registered Nurse (RN)
- Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)