Phlebotomy Technician Career and Training Programs

What is a Phlebotomy Technician?

A phlebotomy technician is who inserts the needle, takes the blood, and analyzes it when you have your blood drawn. But a phlebotomist’s job is much more than simply drawing blood. Instead, they play a critical role in the health care industry, facilitating research that helps save lives.

What’s more, phlebotomy technicians are an integral component of medical teams, working with doctors, nurses, and other medical staff to ensure that health care facilities have the blood supplies needed for emergency situations, like transfusions. In short, phlebotomists might have a highly specialized role, but it’s a role that can quite literally save lives.

What is a Cardio Phlebotomy Technician?

Imagine that you are in the hospital with chest pains. Doctors, nurses, and other medical staff are working to determine the problem and get you the medical care that you need. One member of the staff is likely to be a cardio phlebotomy technician. These workers are highly trained in taking electrocardiograms (EKGs) that give doctors a clearer picture of what’s going on with your heart.

These workers also have the skills needed to draw blood for analysis as well as inserting needles for an intravenous injection. Though cardio phlebotomists might not be as well known as other workers in the medical field, they certainly play a very important part.

What is a Certified Phlebotomy Technician?

Naturally, what sets a certified phlebotomy technician apart from others is the certificate held. Though some employers may not require phlebotomy technicians to have a certification, many do. In fact, three states already require all phlebotomy technicians to be certified. Furthermore, advancement in some careers in this field is often dependent upon being certified as well.

Like with any occupation, the purpose of having certification is to demonstrate to employers and patients alike that you have the knowledge, skills, and competencies required to fulfill the duties of the job to an outstanding level. Furthermore, certified phlebotomy technicians are usually qualified to perform more complex tasks than traditional phlebotomists, including, but not limited to, evaluating patients and their ability to undergo procedures, preparing other fluids (i.e., urine) for testing, and operating sophisticated medical machinery.

Gaining certification in this field is relatively easy. There are five different certification bodies, each having its own specific requirements. Generally speaking, though, to be certified, you have to have completed an approved phlebotomy program or be currently enrolled in such a program or have prior experience or be currently working as a phlebotomy technician. You must also pass a required examination to become certified.

What Does a Phlebotomy Technician Do?

A phlebotomy technician is primarily responsible for drawing and testing blood. Though that might sound like a simple enough task, there is much more to being a phlebotomist than being able to draw a patient’s blood.

Though the job duties associated with being a phlebotomy technician vary somewhat from one employment setting to the next, there are numerous common tasks that a phlebotomist is likely to complete over the course of a day’s work. That usually begins with equipment preparation for blood drawing procedures. This involves gathering up the required tools and supplies, like tourniquets and blood vials, as well as sterilizing equipment like needles, which is typically done in front of the patient so that they know the needle is clean.

The next component of the job involves discussing the procedure with the patient. Many people afraid of needles, and thus face some level of anxiety when getting their blood drawn. That means that phlebotomy technicians should have excellent bedside manner, and have the ability to explain the procedure so that the patient understands what will happen and when, while also providing the patient with a greater level of comfort which is often done by distracting the patient (i.e., asking the patient a question to distract their attention from the needle).

Once the blood is drawn, phlebotomy technicians must properly dispose of needles to safeguard against the transmission of disease. It’s also the phlebotomist’s job to properly label all samples with the necessary information, which might include, but is not limited to, the patient’s name, the name of the attending physician, where the sample is to be sent, and the type of testing that is to be done on the sample.

In some cases, phlebotomy technicians have further responsibilities. It might be their duty to store samples for future use. For example, a phlebotomist working at a blood drive would need to properly label and store blood so that it can be used by hospitals and other medical facilities for transfusion purposes in the future.

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Additionally, some phlebotomists might have an increased role in patient communications, like conducting pre or post interviews with the patient to gather more detailed medical history information.

Sometimes, phlebotomists are also asked to transport blood samples from one place to another, such as from a hospital to a laboratory for testing purposes. A phlebotomist, depending on his or her level of education and location of employment, might collect other types of samples. For example, a certified phlebotomy technician might have the proper training to take urine or tissue samples in addition to taking blood samples.

What Do You Learn in a Phlebotomy Technician Degree Program?

Since phlebotomists work in the medical and research areas, education programs that train phlebotomists focus on building strong scientific skills. To do so, phlebotomy technician degree programs often have courses in:

  • Medical terminology, so students have a deep understanding of medical terms for procedures, blood disorders, and other commonly encountered situations.
  • Biology, or the broad study of living organisms, in this case, humans.
  • Anatomy, or the study of the structural organization of living things, like the human circulatory system.
  • Physiology, or the study of the cells and organs within a biological system, like the function of veins in the circulatory system.
  • Blood and cell composition, in which students learn about the makeup of blood and cells, such as the functions of and differences between red and white blood cells, platelets, and plasma.
  • Hematology, or the study of blood in both healthy and diseased forms.
  • Venipuncture procedures, in which students learn how to insert a needle into a patient’s vein.
  • Laboratory testing, so students are familiar with laboratory equipment and understand safety procedures in the event of an accident.
  • CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, in case a patient needs medical attention during the procedure.

What are the Requirements to Become a Phlebotomy Technician?

Educational and Training Requirements

The formal education requirements to work as a phlebotomy technician are relatively low compared to many other medical-related occupations.

In many cases, a phlebotomist obtains a certificate via a training program that can last from as little as three months up to about one year. Then, on-the-job training occurs, in which the trainee phlebotomist develops further knowledge and skills that allows them to work self-sufficiently.

Another avenue of becoming a phlebotomy technician is to obtain an associate’s degree in phlebotomy or a closely related field, like medical technology or even nursing. Associate’s degree programs are much like certificate programs in that they are designed to prepare students to enter the workforce with the requisite knowledge and skills needed to perform their job. Coursework at this level is typically in the 60 credit hour range, and includes common classes in science like biology, anatomy and physiology, and so forth.

Bachelor’s degree programs in this field are less common, though having a higher degree of education could prove useful for finding a job or advancing in the field. Bachelor’s degrees usually take four years to complete if studies are done full-time. Of the 120 credit hours or so that are required to finish a bachelor’s degree, about half are in general education courses like the humanities, language arts, mathematics, and so on. The other half are focused specifically on phlebotomy, medical technology, or whatever the area of study is related to the major.

Though bachelor’s degree programs are more difficult to get into than associate’s degree programs, admissions requirements are usually broad enough that students with a solid academic background can gain admittance. Typical admissions requirements for undergraduate studies focus heavily on academic performance (i.e., GPA) and test scores, like the ACT or SAT. Some programs might require further information, like recommendations from past teachers.

Certification Requirements

Though certification as a phlebotomy technician is not required in many work settings, it is usually highly recommended that phlebotomists pursue certification.

There are many benefits to being certified, not the least of which is that it opens the doors for employment. Employers want to hire the best employees, and having a certification credential is an excellent way for prospective phlebotomy technicians to demonstrate that they have the knowledge and skills needed to perform the duties of the job.

Like many other occupations in the medical-related field, there are multiple certification options from different certifying bodies. Primarily, American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians (ASPT) and the National Phlebotomy Association (NPA) are responsible for certification. Both organizations have slightly different requirements for certification:

  • The ASPT requires applicants to have completed at least one year of part-time work as a phlebotomist or six months of full-time work, a letter or signature from a medical supervisor that can attest that collecting blood samples is part of the job, and successful completion of an accredited phlebotomy training course with 75 documented successful venipunctures and five documented skin punctures.
  • The NPA requires applicants to have at least one year of work experience in phlebotomy, a letter from the employer verifying that one year of work has been completed, and a satisfactory performance on the NPA Certification Exam.

What Skills are Needed to be a Phlebotomy Technician?

Because phlebotomy technicians are responsible for such a wide-range of tasks, they must have a solid mix of hard and soft skills, personal traits, and qualities that help them complete their job duties. These often include:

  • Compassionate – Not all patients are comfortable having their blood drawn. As such, phlebotomists must be compassionate towards their patients and understand their fears and anxieties.
  • Reliable – Phlebotomists are an integral component of the medical community and must be hard-working and reliable such that blood samples are taken, stored, processed, and studied in the appropriate manner.
  • Attention to detail – Inserting a needle into a person’s body is a job that requires pinpoint precision. Phlebotomists must have a keen eye for detail and be able to maintain their focus on small details, even in stressful situations.
  • Physically fit – Not only do phlebotomy technicians need to have excellent hand-eye coordination, but they must also be physically fit to withstand long hours of sitting, standing, crouching, and bending over.
  • Ability to work as part of a team – Many job duties of a phlebotomist are carried out individually. However, phlebotomists are just one member of a much larger team, and as a result, they must be able to work well with others to achieve a common goal.
  • Understanding of medical concepts – Though they aren’t doctors, phlebotomists must understand medical procedures, terminology, and best practices in order to fulfill the duties of their job.
  • Venipuncture procedures – Drawing blood is not as simple as sticking a needle into someone’s arm. Every person has different veins, and phlebotomists must be able to adapt the manner in which they draw blood to the type of vein structure the patient has.
  • Basic medical procedures – This group of hard skills, which includes being able to apply a tourniquet, check vital signs, perform CPR, and so forth, is a crucial component of any competent phlebotomist’s skillset.
  • Understanding of laboratory procedures – From proper storage of human samples to cleaning medical equipment to labeling samples to following infectious disease protocols, phlebotomy technicians must have a deep understanding of how to conduct laboratory research.
  • Ethical practice – Knowledge of and the ability to adhere to ethical guidelines and government regulations is a central component of being able to work as a phlebotomy technician.

What are the Pros and Cons of Being a Phlebotomy Technician?

Being a phlebotomy technician can be a highly rewarding career with many benefits. These include:

  • Favorable work environments – Phlebotomy technicians work mostly in hospitals and laboratories, which are comfortable, clean places to work.
  • Varied work environments – Phlebotomists are employed in a wide range of settings, from doctor’s offices to blood banks to government agencies. This opens up many different kinds of work experiences.
  • Strong job growth – Phlebotomists are in very high demand, so if you’re qualified and trained well, finding a job can be quite easy.
  • Opportunities for advancement – Because of the training required to be a phlebotomist, it’s an excellent career to use as a stepping-stone to other careers, like nursing or medical assisting.
  • Opportunities to help others – Phlebotomy technicians play a critical role in identifying potential health-related problems, and as a result, have many opportunities to help improve the health of others.
  • Minimal education required – Entry-level phlebotomy jobs are available for individuals that have a phlebotomist certificate. These certificate programs usually take just one year to complete.
  • High job satisfaction – Phlebotomists report high job satisfaction, especially as it pertains to helping others and feeling as though they can make a difference with the work they do.

Of course, phlebotomists face a few disadvantages, including:

  • Low pay – Compared to other careers in the medical field, phlebotomy technicians make less money on average.
  • Erratic work schedule – Depending on the location of employment, you might have to work long hours, nights, weekends, and even holidays.
  • Potentially hazardous work – Working with blood has its inherent dangers, so phlebotomists must have the proper training and take great care to prevent injury to patients and the transmission of diseases.

What is the Average Salary of a Phlebotomy Technician?

As of May 2017, the average annual salary for a phlebotomy technician is $33,670. The salary range is much wider, though, extending from a low of $24,250 per year up to $48,030 per year. The disparity in average earnings depends on the number of years of experience a phlebotomy technician has, with more experience earning more wages.

Additionally, one’ education level strongly impacts one’s earnings. For example, a phlebotomy technician that has completed extra requirements to become certified will almost certainly make more money each year than a technician that is not certified.

How Much Does a Phlebotomy Technician Make an Hour?

As of April 2018, the average hourly wages paid to phlebotomy technicians is around $13.85. Again, much like salaried workers, the pay range is quite wide, ranging from $10.00 per hour for entry-level workers up to more than $19.00 per hour for more experienced technicians.

The location in which one works also influences the hourly wages. For example, a phlebotomy technician that works in a large hospital is more likely to make more money per hour than one that works in a small, non-profit setting, simply because non-profits tend to have much smaller operating budgets than primary care facilities.

What is the Job Outlook for Phlebotomy Technician?

If you’re considering a career as a phlebotomy technician, now is an excellent time to start. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that job growth for phlebotomists will grow at a rate of 25 percent between now and 2026. That is very, very strong growth and demonstrates how in demand trained phlebotomists are at this point in time.

Part of the reason why phlebotomy technicians are in such high demand is because so many different facilities need them, including hospitals and clinics, blood donation centers, and laboratories, just to name a few.

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