A Guide Through Phlebotomy
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Learn how to become a certified phlebotomist
Choose a short-term or long-term course in phlebotomy. Get certified in as short as three months and start working your dream job. If you want to earn a degree, take up either an associate degree course or a bachelor s degree course for higher chances of being hired.
All comprehensive medical tests include extraction of blood. Anyone who has experienced blood extraction for diagnostic examination has experienced what is technically called phlebotomy. The term Phlebotomy comes from two Greek words:
phlebos concerning blood vessel
-tomy making an incision
Simply put, phlebotomy is the insertion of a needle into the blood vessel to draw out blood specimen. The procedure likewise covers proper storage and transport of blood specimen. Other terms for this procedure are venipuncture, venopuncture and venepuncture.
The individual who performs phlebotomy procedure is called phlebotomist. However, other health care practitioners such as doctors, nurses, nurse aides and medical technicians also perform phlebotomy. Nevertheless, phlebotomists are specifically hired to perform the procedure because of their focused expertise and specialized training in the field.
- What is the typical work environment of a phlebotomist?
A person who has undergone and completed phlebotomy training becomes eligible to land a job as a phlebotomist. Career opportunities are widely available in hospitals, health diagnostic centers, health laboratories and offices of physicians.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2012, the bulk of phlebotomists, which is 40%, worked in general hospitals; more than a quarter, that is 26%, worked in medical and diagnostic laboratories; while 18% worked in ambulatory health care services; and 9% worked in doctor s offices.
Most phlebotomists work full time, and are often required to work in shifting schedules including nights, weekends, and holidays.
- What does a phlebotomist occupation entails?
The main responsibilities of a phlebotomist are:
- Prepare patient in some cases, phlebotomy is administered instantaneously. However, to get more accurate blood test results, patients are asked to skip consumption of liquid and solid food for 9 to 12 hours before drawing blood. This ensures extraction of fasting specimen , the source of the most meaningful and reliable health information of patients.
- Draw blood specimen only certified and skilled phlebotomist, as well as health practitioners with phlebotomy training, can draw out blood properly. Great care should be taken when performing the procedure, especially when it involves patients with heightened sensitivity and low tolerance to pain. A phlebotomist must act professionally yet gently when handling patients, be polite and understanding.
- Prepare specimen after blood specimen has been drawn, the phlebotomist then extracts either serum or plasma from the whole blood specimen. Serum is the liquid residue when blood is allowed to clot. Plasma, on the other hand, is produced when whole blood is treated with anticoagulant. The procedure to prepare either serum or plasma varies.
- Store specimen one of the vital roles of a phlebotomist is handling sensitive patient data. Proper storage and labeling are necessary. Serum is usually placed inside red topped tubes while plasma is usually placed inside lavender topped tubes. Aside from the patient s complete name, the tubes indicate the patient s age, birth date, and blood type. Special notes (such as infectious substance) are likewise indicated to further facilitate proper handling. Specimen containers must be kept airtight and free from leaks during storage and transport.
- Transport specimen great care must be observed when transporting blood specimen to the laboratory for testing. A well-trained phlebotomist knows how to properly dispose of needles, sharp objects, medical waste and other by-products of phlebotomy. When syringe is required for a laboratory test, the needle must be removed and the cap replaced before submission. There is specific procedure for transporting infectious substances, and this procedure is quite stringent to prevent spread of infection.
- What are the phlebotomy training and courses available?
The drawing of blood specimen might seem a simple procedure, and yet it involves rigorous steps that only a properly trained phlebotomist can successfully carry out. A person must acquire a post-secondary, non-degree certificate in phlebotomy before landing a job.
- Where to study phlebotomy?
A number of medical schools, community colleges and even health care organizations such as the American Red Cross offer Certificate in Phlebotomy. An aspiring phlebotomist needs to undergo at least a short-term course in the field and successfully complete the training to get certified.
Three of the notable organizations that offer phlebotomy technician certification are the National Center for Competency Testing, the American Society for Clinical Pathology, and the American Medical Technologists.
Check the Internet or your local university or college for available programs in phlebotomy.
- What are the requirements for training?
Requirements for training include high school diploma, passing a reading comprehension exam, clean background report, up-to-date vaccinations and boosters, as well as passing a health exam. It is important for the applicant to have a clean criminal record because phlebotomy involves handling of sensitive information. Having good health is likewise important because a phlebotomist is exposed to different diseases and medical substances.
- How long does the training or course last?
Phlebotomy program typically has four levels, depending on the longevity of the program.
Phlebotomy Technician Program this course completes in 3 months
Certificate in Phlebotomy this is short-term course and lasts from 6 months to 12 months
Associate Degree in Phlebotomy this program runs from 1 year to 2 years
Bachelor s Degree in Phlebotomy this program runs from 3 years to 4 years
Choose a phlebotomy program based on your educational goal, timeframe and personal preferences. If you want to start working early, then a short-term course is right for you. For higher levels of training, choose the degree course with longer terms.
Good news: Career Outlook for Phlebotomy is PROMISING. Expect better pay and higher demand for phlebotomists in the next 10 years.
Demand forecast for phlebotomists fares better than other occupations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment rate in phlebotomy will go up by 27 percent from 2012 to 2022. In 2012, there were more than 100,000 jobs in phlebotomy, and this number is expected to increase to 128,000 in 2022.
Compare phlebotomist with other related occupations in terms of job duties, required education and average salary. See table here: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/phlebotomists.htm#tab-7
As the needs for health care services increases, particularly with the onset of pandemics and infectious diseases, demand for phlebotomists increases, as well. More and more players in the health care sector such as hospitals, diagnostic centers and blood donation centers will open their doors for phlebotomists.
- What is the phlebotomy salary scale to expect?
Phlebotomy income is highly competitive when compared with that of other healthcare support occupations. In 2012, the average income of a phlebotomist was $30,000 per year, or $14 per hour. Record shows that in 2012, 10 percent of phlebotomists earned more than $42,600 yearly income and 10 percent earned lower than $21,340 yearly income.
See graph on Phlebotomist Pay as prepared by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics here: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/phlebotomists.htm#tab-5
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