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If you are considering a phlebotomist career, this guide can help you make an informed decision. A phlebotomist is a medical professional trained to draw blood specimens for lab testing. Phlebotomists also collect donated blood for blood transfusions.
It takes approximately 1-3 years to become a phlebotomist. In addition, the demand for this profession remains high, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting a 22% job growth rate between 2020 and 2030.
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What Does a Phlebotomist Do?
A phlebotomist collects blood samples ordered by the healthcare provider for lab tests or for blood donations. Responsibilities include sterilizing equipment, extracting blood, and preparing samples for lab testing. They also talk patients through the procedure to calm any uneasiness.
Phlebotomists work in hospital laboratories, outpatient clinics, community health centers, residential facilities, blood banks, or physicians' offices. They sometimes travel to different sites to set up mobile donation centers and can also perform homecare.
Safety is an important aspect of a phlebotomist's job. They must know how to handle potentially hazardous body fluids, maintain sterility, and prevent accidental needle sticks.
There are several paths to becoming a phlebotomist, including diploma phlebotomy programs and certification programs. Certification is recommended, but not always required, depending on state mandates and/or employers' hiring criteria.
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Key responsibilities for phlebotomists include:
- Preparing patients for blood draws or blood transfusions, including providing emotional support
- Performing venipuncture (inserting a needle into the vein)
- Performing finger pricks on adults or children or heel pricks on infants for lab tests, such as blood sugar or phenylalanine (PKU) tests
- Observing for adverse reactions to blood draws or blood transfusions
- Maintaining proper tracking and storage of blood samples for lab submission
Career traits that support success in phlebotomy include:
- The ability to function well in a fast-paced, physically or emotionally demanding job
- Working well under stressful conditions
- Having good communication skills
- Providing strong patient support and advocacy expertise
Where Do Phlebotomists Work?
According to the BLS, 39% of phlebotomists work in state, local, and private hospitals. Some examples include:
Unique functions in this setting involve performing a heel stick to take blood from newborns for PKU tests 24-72 hours after birth.
Medical and diagnostic laboratories
Phlebotomists assist with blood tests aimed at helping the medical team diagnose and treat various medical conditions or medical emergencies.
Ambulatory healthcare services
Professionals in this setting label and transport blood samples to the laboratory.
How to Become a Phlebotomist
Only four U.S. states require phlebotomists to hold certification for employment. According to the National Phlebotomy Certification Exam, these four states include California, Louisiana, Nevada, and Washington. Other states hold their own unique requirements, such as an age limit, a background check, a health assessment, or the completion of an accredited training program.
Regardless of legal mandates, many employers require phlebotomy certification/licensure to draw blood. Learn more about each state's requirements here.
Learn more about how to become a phlebotomist.
How Much Do Phlebotomists Make?
According to Payscale data from July 2022, the average hourly rate for phlebotomists is $15.94. Pay may range from $12.20 to $20.62 per hour, depending on job setting, certification status, level of experience, and geographic location. The average median salary for phlebotomists is $37,380, according to the BLS.
Learn more about a phlebotomist's salary.
Frequently Asked Questions about Phlebotomists
How long does it take to become a phlebotomist?
It usually takes 8-12 months to complete a postsecondary, non-degree award from a phlebotomy program and 20-40 hours of coursework for a phlebotomy certification.
What's the difference between a phlebotomist and a medical assistant?
A phlebotomist is limited in job scope to drawing blood or taking other samples for lab tests, such as urine specimens. A certified medical assistant is often trained to draw blood and perform other duties, including taking vital signs, patient teaching, removal of sutures, and changing dressings.
Is a phlebotomist a nurse?
No, a nurse has a much wider scope of practice than a phlebotomist. However, an IV infusion nurse is a registered nurse who starts IV lines and often works with complex patients.
Do phlebotomists give injections?
No, only nurses or medical assistants working under the supervision of an onsite licensed healthcare provider can legally give injections.
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