How does one become a certified phlebotomist?

A phlebotomist is a healthcare worker whose primary responsibility is to draw blood from patients in hospitals, blood banks or other health care facilities so that it can be analyzed for disease or as blood donation. They use needles, tourniquets, disposable containers as well as alcohol and gauze to perform their work.

Although it is a very common job, very few people understand what it entails or what sorts of qualifications are necessary for the job. This guide provides all the details you need to answer these questions definitively and more.

Phlebotomy Job Description

A phlebotomist’s main duties include

  • Drawing blood from patients and donors in a healthcare facility
  • Verifying and recording the identity of patients and blood donors
  • Talking with patients and donors to allay any fears they may have about the procedure
  • Applying treatment to the site of the puncture
  • Labeling and storing blood containers
  • Drawing blood samples and testing them
  • A phlebotomist may conduct interviews with patients and potential donors
  • A phlebotomist may take vital signs of patients before and after the procedure

Phlebotomy Job Outlook and Earnings

According to data availed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job prospects of phlebotomists and other clinical laboratory technicians will be growing at an annual rate of 16% in the period between 2008 and 2018. This makes the phlebotomy job market quite attractive as this is well above the national average job growth rate. The main reasons for this positive outlook are a steadily growing population and technological advancements which are leading to ever new blood tests needed to diagnose medical conditions.

The average annual salary of a phlebotomist depends on several factors such as basic qualification, job experience, certification and work location. According to the BLS, the average hourly wage earned by phlebotomists in the United States is $14.86. This translates to an average annual salary of $30, 910. The lowest 10% in the phlebotomist wage scale earn $10.26 an hour  while the top 10% earn an average of $20.48.

The BLS data also show that phlebotomists working in Alaska have the highest average hourly wage at $18.63 which translates to an annual income of $36,430.  Alaska is followed by California (hourly mean wage of $18.48), Delaware ($17.80), Rhode Island ($17.52) and then New York ($17.42).

Education, Certification and Training of Phlebotomists

To begin training as a phlebotomist in the United States, you need to have at least a high school diploma, GED certificate or a foreign equivalent which is recognizable in the USA. Phlebotomy courses are offered in many technical and community colleges around the United States. One may also get training in such healthcare facilities as public hospitals while on the job.

The cost of phlebotomy training courses offered at community and technical colleges can range between $600 and $2,500 depending on the location. If you are already working as a phlebotomist and only interested in gaining the certification, you may opt for online phlebotomy courses as these are much cheaper.

While a handful of  states do not require practicing phlebotomists to be certified, it makes sense to go for certification if you are serious about finding employment quickly. Today, employers insist that applicants looking for employment either be holders of a phlebotomy certificate of be attending certification classes.

The following are the national organizations whose phlebotomy certifications are recognized countrywide:

The length of training will depend on the type of certification you are looking for. However, the courses take between four to eight months. Since the training is heavily oriented to the sciences, students who scored highly in science subjects will find the going easier. Most of the curriculum deals with courses on medical terminology as well as basic human physiology and anatomy.

Most of the classroom training will be focused on maintaining the integrity of blood samples which can easily get contaminated. The trainees will also be taught how to ensure that infections do not pass to the patients or the phlebotomists themselves in the course of drawing blood. The practical component of phlebotomy training includes gaining actual skills in drawing blood from patients and also how to interact with patients and blood donors.

After graduating from a phlebotomy school, it is possible to find employment immediately. However, if you get certification, you will boost your employment chances more. Many certifying bodies give leeway for graduates to take their certification at any time within five years after graduation so long as they meet the basic requirements for certification which are:

  1. At least 40 hours of classroom learning

  2. At least 100 hours of practical clinical training

  3. Performing at least 100 unassisted skinpunctures and venipuctures

If you meet these basic requirements, then you may schedule a certification exam through the National Phlebotomy Association or the the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP).

Some few states also require phlebotomists to obtain practicing licenses and this may mean taking another exam.

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