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How to Become a Phlebotomist

If you have excellent hand-eye coordination, good people skills, and a desire to help others, a career as a phlebotomist might be the perfect choice for you.

Phlebotomists will draw blood from patients using needles or finger sticks. They typically work in hospitals, medical laboratories, and doctors’ offices. They have an important role as the samples they collect are used for testing, donation, transfusions, and research. Phlebotomists need to have great attention to detail as they must accurately label each specimen and package them correctly for transport to laboratories. 

Phlebotomists must have exceptional communication and interpersonal skills to succeed. They should be able to calm queasy and nervous patients. They need to know the right gauge needles and which vials to use and how to prepare veins for drawing blood. Some phlebotomists use testing equipment to analyze blood samples and report findings. They must keep accurate records and know how to properly handle specimens. 

Sample job description

A phlebotomist is needed for urgent hire at [Your Company Name]! A phlebotomist is a person that removes blood from the arm of a patient. Although this job seems simple enough, there are several underlying responsibilities and knowledge needed that you must be aware of prior to applying. Blood can be taken out of the body for multiple reasons. One of these reasons is an attempt to learn about the patient, whether that is figuring out their blood type, testing for diabetes, checking glucose levels, or any other factor that is important for the hospital to know. The second reason is for general lab research. In order to find cures for diseases, solutions to problems, experiments, etc., real blood is needed. The third reason is for donation. Donating blood is crucial for people with illnesses where their bodies cannot supply enough blood on their own, as well as keeping victims of gory incidents alive. Depending on the reasoning for taking the blood, different amounts are needed. This is where the knowledge of the phlebotomist is needed. If small amounts of blood are needed, phlebotomists may take blood from the capillaries, which is slightly different from a vein. On top of all this, you must label patients’ blood samples and continually organize the inventory.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Draw blood from patients and donors
  • Talk to people to ease their concerns about the process
  • Enter patients’ information in a database
  • Label blood for testing 
  • Use basic medical supplies such as needles and vials
  • Clean and sanitize equipment and workspaces 

Education and experience

Phlebotomists must have a high school diploma or equivalent. They need to earn a post-secondary certification from a phlebotomy program at a vocational school or community college. These programs, which usually take less than a year, include classes in anatomy and physiology and work in a laboratory. 

Required skills and qualifications

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Strong interpersonal skills for dealing with patients, doctors, and staff
  • Dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and physical stamina
  • Discretion and the ability to handle confidential information
  • Ability to work carefully and accurately under pressure
  • Caring and compassionate demeanor
  • Keen attention to detail

Preferred qualifications

  • 3+ years working in a hospital or clinic as a phlebotomist
  • Experience working with children and the elderly
  • Strong communication skills; both written and verbal
  • Ability to work independently or in a team environment
  • Comfortable working under minimal supervision

Typical work environment

As a phlebotomist, you may work in a number of different medical clinics, such as an ordinary hospital, medical and diagnostic laboratories, doctor’s offices, outpatient care centers, or blood donation clinics. You can expect your hours to be outside that of a regular 9-5, as healthcare is needed around the clock. You will run across many children and patients who are terrified of this procedure, so having the ability to comfort and calm down clients is a necessity. Sanitation is a huge factor in the safety of all medical work, and this specific procedure is no different. It will be your responsibility to ensure all vials, needles, test tubes, and other equipment is clean at all times. After taking samples, you will have to take the patients’ information and record it in the facility’s databases.

Typical hours

Phlebotomists work a variety of schedules because some health-care facilities are open early in the morning, late at night, or 24 hours a day. As a result, phlebotomists sometimes work evenings, weekends, or holidays. They also might need to travel from one donation site to the next.

Available certifications

There are multiple certifications that a phlebotomist may need to secure to stand out amongst the crowd of applicants. Here are the most popular.

  • NPA. The National Phlebotomy Association offers an exam, allowing you to not only prove your knowledge and skills but also separate yourself from most other workers in this field. Whether this training and exam are to help your skills increase, or catch the eye of an employer, this certification offers both. 
  • CPT. Whether you’ve been in the field for many years, or have no experience, this certificate can be helpful for you. The Certified Phlebotomy Technician certificate offers a certificate to anyone willing to meet the qualifications, which are easily obtainable to anyone committed. These trainings/tests will help you flourish in your career, allowing employers to know you are qualified for the job.

Career path

The first step toward becoming a phlebotomist is to earn a high school diploma or its equivalent. Employers also expect graduates to complete a phlebotomy program at a vocational school or community college. These programs typically take less than a year to finish and include science classes and hands-on experience in a laboratory. Students also learn how to identify and label blood samples. Several organizations — including the National Center for Competency Testing and the National Phlebotomy Association — offer certification, which some states require.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 31-9097

2020 Employment129,600
Projected Employment in 2030158,400
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 22% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift28,800 increase

With our aging population, blood draws and analysis will continue to be a critical function at hospitals and medical labs. Health emergencies often create a surge in blood donations, which drives up the need for phlebotomists. Those who want to improve their job prospects should earn certification from one of several organizations.

The Center for Phlebotomy Education produces a free email newsletter covering the latest industry news and trends.

With additional education and training, phlebotomists can expand into other careers in health care.