Phlebotomy is the process of drawing blood from a patient for clinical or medical testing, transfusions, donations, or research. Phlebotomists work in hospitals or medical labs and collect blood mainly via venipuncture. Fingersticks and other procedures are sometimes used as well. Phlebotomists are responsible for identifying and preparing the patient for the procedure as well as the proper labeling of the sample.
Phlebotomists are different from nurses and other medical professionals in the sense that they are hyper-specialized and focused on making the process of drawing blood as pain-free and comfortable as possible. Phlebotomists are responsible for drawing blood in a professional and compassionate manner, and in accordance with different medical practices.
Phlebotomists can draw blood for medical testing, transfusions, or donations. There are a few ways that phlebotomists draw blood. The most common is venipuncture, the actual puncturing of a vein with a needle. You have probably experienced this when giving blood or having tests.
Another common drawing technique is using fingersticks to draw multiple smaller samples. This method is often associated with testing for diabetes and testing on children. The final method of drawing blood that phlebotomists use is heelsticks. Heelsticks are similar to fingersticks, but are used on the heels, particularly with infants.
Overall, phlebotomists must familiarize themselves with all facets of drawing blood, and must be committed to doing so in the most pain-free and professional way possible.
Phlebotomist Job Duties
In addition to this basic understanding of what a phlebotomist does, the position has many other roles and responsibilities including:
- verifying patient information to ensure efficiency and protection of personal information
- maintaining medical specimen integrity in order to comply with institution, state, and federal regulations and safety procedures
- drawing blood to ensure accurate dosages of medicine are being administered
- monitoring glucose levels for those patients suffering from diabetes
- working closely with pathologists on testing and confirming whether results are within normal ranges
- resolving unusual testing results with medical professionals including nurses, doctors, and specialists
- determining the best method for extracting for each case
- transporting samples safely and professionally
- working to prevent infections in patients
Other duties include:
- Maintaining a safe and clean environment, practicing universal caution
- Deciding the best method of collection based on the patient and tests required
- Restoring hemostasis to the puncture site
- Withdrawing blood into the proper container or tubes required for the given test
- Delivering the samples to the lab for testing
Skills and requirements
While, in many states there is no requirement to become a phlebotomist beside having a high school diploma or equivalent GED, it still requires proper training and education to become a successful phlebotomist. There are many schools and online courses that can train you in proper procedures and and skills necessary to become a certified phlebotomist. Being knowledgeable of the testing and labeling process, and skilled at venipuncture are just the first steps in becoming a phlebotomist. There are several personality traits and real world skills that will help you succeed as well. A good phlebotomist should:
Work well under pressure and, at times, extreme situations
Hospitals and medical labs can be hectic places and emergencies can arises at any given time. You must be able to remain calm and properly collect and label samples even at times when a patient may be uncooperative or in an unresponsive state.
Have a compassionate, friendly and professional demeanor
When interacting with patients always try and keep in mind that, while it is your job to collect the samples necessary, the patient’s comfort and safety should be your number one concern. Being competent and professional will also make a patient feel at ease.
Be detail oriented
Mislabeled collections or misidentified patients can lead to serious issues or complications. There is no room for error when dealing with people’s health and safety.
Be able to multi task
Again, hospitals can be very busy places and doctors and nurses are relying on the results they need being delivered to them as quickly as possibly. Being able to think on your feet while maintaining accuracy is key.
If you are interested in a career in phlebotomy and have the traits required there are several resources available to you on this site. You can find phlebotomy training schools online or traditional classroom courses if you are a student or just entering the field. Or, if you are already a working phlebotomist we can help show you how to get certified or re-certified. Check out the rest of the site for more specific information.
Additional Phlebotomy Skills
In addition to these other responsibilities, phlebotomists rely on a number of skills and unofficial qualifications to drive their success. These skills include:
- analytical and critical thinking skills
- ability to prioritize tasks under pressure
- attention to detail
- a commitment to helping others
As you can see, while phlebotomists are focused on drawing blood, they are an integral part of any medical institution and serve in a number of roles in addition to their core responsibilities.
If this career seems like the perfect fit for you, be sure to check out our in-depth guide on how to become a certified phlebotomist!