Phlebotomy – drawing blood for testing, donation or other medical reasons – is a career field that’s increasing faster than almost any other specialty.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, phlebotomy employment is expected to grow by 25 percent by 2024, which surpasses the average growth of all other healthcare support occupations.
Where to Begin
To enter into a phlebotomy training program, students must meet some minimum requirements. First and foremost, prospective students must have either a high school diploma or a GED. Classes in biology, chemistry, physical education and health occupations can help prepare students for what they will encounter in their phlebotomy program.
Students absolutely MUST be up to date on all immunizations, since they are going to be working around blood and susceptible patients, and also may need to pass a criminal background check.
When starting their training program, prospective phlebotomists need to be open and available for any type of work conditions, from 12-hour hospital shifts to graveyard shifts to rotating days and nights. (Shifts can begin even before the students finish school because clinicals may be scheduled at any time.)
Interpersonal skills and compassion are a must. Many patients will be terrified of phlebotomy procedures (adults no less than children). And students who are squeamish around blood might do well to seek another profession.
Several options are open to aspiring phlebotomists. Most will take a vocational training course ending in a certificate of completion. Certificate programs usually take less than a year to complete and are found at community colleges, technical schools and online.
Phlebotomy classes generally include a basic education in anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, CPR, specimen care and handling, handling of phlebotomy equipment, infection risks and other topics that relate directly to the field of phlebotomy.
Advanced options include Associate/Bachelor of Science degree programs for Clinical Laboratory Work. Such programs go beyond phlebotomy training and provide better opportunities for advancement and promotion in laboratory fields.
Clinicals and Certification
Once the classroom portion of the training is complete, students begin clinical training, where they will get hands-on experience drawing blood from real patients sitting on phlebotomist chairs in hospitals, laboratories and doctors’ offices. Many students consider this part of the program more fun than classroom lectures. Clinicals are essentially on-the-job training in the kind of office or laboratory where students will eventually work.
Many offices hire the students after they conclude their clinical training. Students who don’t get an offer still enter the workforce with practical experience prominent on their resumes.
Phlebotomy training programs can cost several thousands of dollars, but the cost is low considering the amount of intense training and hands-on experience students receive. Certifications, licenses and exams also carry a price tag, but the amount is comparable to other types of certification/licensure.
Students are also required to perform a minimum number of venipunctures – puncture of a vein – and skin punctures before they can obtain official certification. Once the new phlebotomists earn their certificates, they will be required to complete continuing education classes periodically to maintain their standing.
Although each state has different requirements (some require registration and licensure, others do not), every state sets standards that phlebotomists must meet to be able to practice.
People interested in phlebotomy should research their state’s healthcare requirements and laws before enrolling in a program. Check out nationally recognized certification as well – employers prefer to hire certified professionals.
On The Job
Once a student is a trained, certified phlebotomist, he or she can get a job as a phlebotomist technician, a blood bank technician, a laboratory tech, a phlebotomist float (who travels to where phlebotomists are most needed), a hematologist technician or a nurse medical assistant phlebotomist. Some of the more specialized fields require higher certification levels and/or additional training.
Phlebotomy is a growth industry, and with the opening of new hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices all over the country, phlebotomists are going to be in very high demand over the next decade or so.
Phlebotomy is an outstanding field for people interested in a career in the medical sciences. Training is fast and relatively inexpensive, income potential is well over $30,000 per year in most places, and finding a job is easy almost anywhere.
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