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Phlebotomy is the process of making a puncture in a vein usually in the arm, with a cannula, for the purpose of drawing blood. The procedure itself is known as venipuncture.
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Phlebotomy technician programs – which teach you how to draw blood and work with patients throughout this process – can prepare you for a job as a phlebotomist in less than one year (depending on the individual student). Also, the job outlook is strong!
The demand for phlebotomists is expected to grow 25% between 2016 and 2026, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Are you curious about the responsibilities involved with being a phlebotomy technician? We’ve compiled a guide on what these professionals do on a daily basis. Plus, we’ll take a look at how you can get into this field.
Let’s get started!
What Are Phlebotomy Technicians?
Phlebotomists’ main job is to draw blood and collect fluids.
During this process, it’s important to vary your approach based on your patients’ unique demeanor and personality quirks. In light of this, having interpersonal skills is critical if you want to become a phlebotomy tech.
For example, some patients you’ll encounter will be afraid to have their blood drawn. Before you can draw their blood successfully, you’ll need to put them at ease.
Then, once you’ve collected a patient’s fluids, you’ll typically submit them to a lab for analysis.
You’ll also be responsible for handling your patients’ medical information properly.
As we mentioned earlier, the demand for these healthcare workers is growing. That can mean job security for you if you choose to get into this field.
The reasons behind this growth are that all kinds of healthcare institutions require blood to be drawn for various tests and procedures. Blood analysis is an essential function of medical laboratories. Also, the need for phlebotomy technicians is particularly high in times of crisis where a lot of people require blood donations at once.
So this could be a good field for you to get into. Now let’s take a look at the daily responsibilities of a phlebotomy technician.
If you were working in this role, you would want to have all your important equipment and materials on hand before a patient ever steps foot in your medical office.
These materials range from tourniquets to disposal containers, collection tubes, and sterilized instruments.
Phlebotomists typically don’t open sterilized needles until the patients are present to see the process. This confirms to the patient that the needle is new and sterilized.
The more prepared you are for each patient, the more at ease your patients can feel — and the more smoothly your blood draws can go.
So, all of your equipment is ready for your first patient. That’s half of the work.
Now, you need to prepare your patient for his procedure.
if you were in this role, you’d need to interview your patient to get his medical history. This gives you an idea of what medical experiences he’s had and the medications he’s taken.
If the patient is one whom you’ve seen before, you can simply verify his existing medical record and see if any changes need to be made to it.
Next, you’ll check the patient’s vital signs. This includes checking his pulse and blood pressure, for instance.
Finally, you’re ready to draw blood.
Before you do, you would typically analyze your patient’s behavior for any signs of apprehension. This will tell you if you need to employ distraction techniques to increase his comfort level during the blood draw.
To start the blood draw process, you would prepare your sample area using a tourniquet and then give your patient a needle prick.
You’ll usually draw blood from inside the patient’s elbow. However, you may draw blood from another area of the body if the doctor specifically requests this.
In addition to drawing blood, you might have to collect tissue or urine.
However, collecting blood will likely be your main focus. For this reason, it’s important to master the art of venipuncture.
Otherwise, you might take too long to find a patient’s vein, which makes the procedure uncomfortable – for him and for you.
After you’ve successfully collected a fluid sample, you need to label your collection tubes properly with the appropriate information.
For example, you would need to list where your sample will go and the name of the physician.
If you don’t label your tubes correctly, they may go to the wrong places or undergo the wrong testing. For this reason, the phlebotomist’s job is important to overall patient care.
Another important part of a phlebotomist’s job? Appropriately disposing of every needle you used.
If you don’t dispose of used tools properly, this could put you, your fellow staff members, or even patients in danger.
Your Earning Potential as a Phlebotomist
After reading about the day in the life of a phlebotomist, you might be even more excited at the idea of embarking on this career field!
A wonderful thing about going into phlebotomy is that you may have the option of having a flexible schedule. This could give you more time to go back to school or take care of your family, for example, depending on the type of role you choose.
If you’re interested in moving up in the field, there are growth opportunities, as well. If you continue your education, earn enough experience, and meet other qualifications, you could eventually move into a supervisory role.
How to Train to Become a Phlebotomist
A phlebotomy program can prepare you for the dynamic job of a phlebotomist technician.
In a quality program, you’ll learn how to pierce patients’ veins and draw blood from them.
You’ll also gain hands-on training for keeping patients calm, labeling blood, handling blood, and sending samples to the lab.
Look for a program that not only teaches you skills in the classroom but also requires you to complete an internship or externship. This can give you the chance to practice your phlebotomy skills under supervision.
Here are a few specific topics you’re likely to go over in an accredited school’s phlebotomy courses:
- Blood collection procedures
- Handling of specimens
- Safety and medical ethics
- Anatomy and physiology
- Medical terminology
You’ll also learn a phlebotomist’s general roles and responsibilities, as well as the ethics and laws governing patient rights. You’ll likely study laboratory standards, aseptic concepts and control, and receive CPR and first aid training, as well.
Where You Can Work
So, where can you work as a newly trained phlebotomy technician?
These healthcare workers can find employment in various organizations and facilities.
A hospital may come to mind first — and for good reason. Hospitals remain the biggest employer of phlebotomists.
However, you can also find phlebotomy job openings at clinics, physician’s practices, diagnostic labs, and outpatient care centers.
Looking for an externship or internship opportunity is a good way to become a competitive candidate. The supervisor of your externship site may serve as a reference for you during your job search, and you could even be hired onto the staff at your externship site.
You can also look for volunteer phlebotomy opportunities to gain some valuable hands-on experience. For instance, the American Red Cross is usually looking for phlebotomists to volunteer in their facilities or at blood drives–
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