Most people know that phlebotomists draw blood from patients. While that is a significant part of the duties of a phlebotomist, the job description is far more wide-ranging.
Knowing your responsibilities starts with the training. Phlebotomy training doesn’t take too long, but it is required to get a job and start working with patients. Training helps to prepare you for daily tasks as well as some of the unique situations that you encounter.
Knowing what the job fully entails will not only help you, but it will support the healthcare industry, too. Hospitals and clinics are always on the lookout for phlebotomists who are willing to go the extra mile. Those individuals are usually the ones who excel when they’re assigned responsibility.
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What Do Phlebotomists Do Each Day?
This guide will cover what you’ll be doing as a phlebotomist. We’ll start with what you’ll learn from a training program. Then, we’ll cover what you might do in your daily routine, and where you might be able to achieve with the right amount of professional experience.
Phlebotomy may be an entry-level career, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t take hard work and determination to be successful. When you know what’s expected of you, you can do a better job and may end up earning more money.
Let’s learn about the duties of a phlebotomist, and how you can use those during a successful career.
What Is Needed to Become a Phlebotomist?
Not much is needed to begin a phlebotomy training program. You don’t need any previous secondary education. There is also no need to have any prior medical experience.
The only two requirements for most courses are that you must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED.
Though it’s not required, you might enjoy training more if you have an interest in specific scientific subjects. People who like chemistry and biology will probably like the subjects covered in the classroom part of a training course.
Because so little is required academically, phlebotomy is an excellent career option for almost everyone. Whether you just graduated from high school or you’re looking for a career change, you can start a training course without experience and ‘potentially’ have a job within a year.
What to Expect During Training
Phlebotomy training usually lasts for between 4 and 8 months.
Several factors play into how long you can expect your course to take. First, it depends on where you receive your training. Colleges sometimes offer it on a semester basis. But, because there is such a high need for phlebotomists, there are specific courses designed just for phlebotomy training. Even hospitals have jumped on board. Many are offering phlebotomy training to recruit more workers.
No matter how long your training course takes, you can expect the same phlebotomy basics. The first part of your course will focus on classroom learning.
You’ll be in a classroom setting with other students, and you’ll cover subjects like:
- Medical terminology
- Lab safety
- Systems of the body
- Human anatomy
You’ll also learn different venipuncture techniques. After all, drawing blood is one of the primary tasks of a phlebotomist. But, it’s about more than just drawing blood from someone’s arm.
A phlebotomist has to be aware of different types of syringes and equipment. They also need to know how to draw blood from other parts of the body if a vein on the arm isn’t usable.
Once you complete the classroom part of your training, you’ll be able to use a more hands-on approach.
The second half of most phlebotomy programs are used to practice venipuncture. Some programs make their trainees go through hundreds of successful sticks before they can pass the course. The more successful sticks you do, the more prepared you’ll be for a job in the field.
This part of the coursework does more than prepare you for drawing blood. It also gives you an opportunity to work with people and become familiar with how to handle patients.
Phlebotomy Certification after Training
Though it’s not an official duty, many people who have gone through phlebotomy training choose to become certified. Certification only takes more training. In the end, you’ll need to take and pass an exam through a nationally-recognized organization.
Gaining your certification is beneficial for several reasons. First, it may make it easier for you to get a job. It’s a significant boost to your resume and can put you ahead of your competition. You may also start out at a higher salary.
Certification also helps to broaden the tasks and responsibilities you’ll have each day. The more you’re able to do because you’re certified, the easier it will be to get a pay increase.
What Does a Phlebotomist Do Each Day?
In the next few sections, we’ll go into a bit more detail about what you can expect your daily schedule to look like as a phlebotomist. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that nearly all these responsibilities will have you working directly with people.
Every day, you’ll have to work with a variety of different people. This includes everyone from children to the elderly. Some patients will be a joy, while others may test your patience.
Even when you’re not working with patients, you’ll be considered a part of a team on a medical staff. Phlebotomists should know how to work well with others and have a pleasant bedside manner.
Of course, there are other personal skills that are important for this job. We’ll talk more about those skills as we break down the daily responsibilities.
Your organization skills are critical when you’re a phlebotomy technician. It starts with being organized with your patients. One of the first things a tech does when they get a patient is to make sure they’re working with the right person. You wouldn’t ever want to run the wrong tests or take the wrong samples.
There are safety goals that go along with each patient before you even begin your work. Most rules put in place have the phlebotomist get at least two patient identifiers. This must be done before you draw any blood.
Examples of identifiers include things like the patient stating their name out loud. Or, a driver’s license or medical band around their wrist. Being able to confirm you’re working with the right patient before you get started is of the utmost importance.
This can seem like something that’s easy to forget, so it can never just become ‘routine’ within your job. It’s something you have to focus on every time a new patient comes into your room.
Drawing Blood (Venipuncture)
Drawing blood is what people associate with phlebotomy. Even though it’s not the only responsibility of a phlebotomist, it plays a significant role in what you’ll do on a daily basis. The practice of drawing blood is called venipuncture. You’ll learn how to do this in your training program.
Typically, you’ll draw blood from a patient’s arm. But, some people don’t have veins that work well for blood draws on the arm, so you need to be prepared to draw elsewhere. Different syringes and techniques can be used in venipuncture.
Phlebotomy technicians can draw blood for different reasons. It all depends on where you work and what is needed. The most common reason for phlebotomists to draw blood is for sample purposes. These samples are used to make sure a patient is healthy or to diagnose different conditions.
Working Different Shifts
Depending on where you work, you may be required to cover different shifts. For example, hospitals and emergency clinics are open 24-hours a day. That means they need phlebotomists around the clock.
You may not work a typical 9-5 shift in these positions. If you’re someone who doesn’t mind working overnight or working ‘odd’ hours, this could be the ideal position.
Some phlebotomists choose part-time work instead of making it a full-time career. You may be more likely to work these odd-hour shifts if you’re only employed part-time.
It’s also not fair to assume that just because you’re working overnight that you won’t be busy. No matter what your shift is, it’s important to stay on your toes and fulfill the rest of your responsibilities.
Following Safety Procedures
One aspect of phlebotomy that should be present in everything you do is safety. There are many different rules and precautions to follow.
These are put in place to keep yourself and your patients safe. When you’re working with needles, accidents can happen if you’re not careful. You could accidentally stick yourself or your patient. If that happens with a used needle, you could put yourself at risk for different types of diseases.
Each hospital and clinic will usually have their own set of rules and safety measures to follow. You’ll need to keep these in mind when you’re working with patients, but also when you’re transporting blood samples and working around a lab. The safety rules of a medical facility are for everyone’s benefit.
One of the characteristics that can be beneficial for a phlebotomist to have is patience. Rushing around and trying to get things done quickly makes it much easier for accidents to happen.
It’s easy to feel rushed when you’re in a busy hospital. Phlebotomists have to stay calm under pressure to keep themselves safe.
Working with Patients
We already touched on the fact that you’ll work with a variety of different patients each day. Phlebotomists are often one of the first people a patient sees before they visit their physician so that they can get the results of their blood tests.
From children to the elderly, you’ll have to deal with all different ages and personality types. Many people don’t like getting their blood drawn, and they can respond in different ways.
Some people might be difficult to work with. Others might be scared of needles. It’s the responsibility of a phlebotomist to keep patients as calm and comfortable as possible.
Having an excellent bedside manner is an essential trait for a phlebotomy technician. It can be a massive help if you have an easy time striking up a conversation with someone or finding some common ground.
Most patients are likely to be put at ease if they feel like they’re working with a friend instead of a medical professional.
Working with Medical Staff
Along with working with patients every day, most phlebotomists work as part of a team. If you work in a hospital, clinic or private practice, you’ll be a member of a medical staff.
It’s important to be a team player and work well with others toward a common goal. Everyone you work with has the best interest of each patient in mind.
You’ll work regularly with lab professionals. Most hospitals have their own labs on-site. Private practices may send their bloodwork to a lab off-site. But, it’s up to a phlebotomist to make sure blood samples that are drawn each day get safely to a lab for testing.
You won’t do any testing in the lab but having a good relationship with those who do is a plus. It can make both of your jobs more pleasant on a regular basis. Again, it’s all about being a team player to reach the same goal.
Organizing Blood Samples
It’s imperative for a phlebotomist to pay attention to detail and be a highly-organized person.
Every vial of blood that is drawn from a patient needs to be properly capped and labeled. Then, you have to keep track of all of them while they’re transported to the lab. Each vial needs to be labeled with the patient’s correct information. This ensures that there is no confusion at the lab.
Properly-labeled vials ensure that each patient gets the right diagnosis. If they were to get mixed up, a patient could be given the wrong information. They may even be given a treatment that isn’t meant for them. As you might imagine, that could be disastrous. So, keeping things as organized as possible is a major part of a phlebotomist’s daily responsibilities.
It’s not only important to make sure the blood samples you draw are organized, but that your workstation is, too. Phlebotomists typically use carts with the equipment and tools they need.
Before a patient comes in, your cart should be neatly put together with everything you need in its place. This will make your job easier. It’ll also make it less likely for you to forget something or use the wrong instrument or tool on a patient.
Finally, it will make the time with your patient go faster if you’re not scrambling to find things. That can help to put your patient at ease.
Understanding Lab Safety Rules
As mentioned before, phlebotomists have to work with laboratories each day. While phlebotomy techs don’t test blood samples, they do have to make sure they are transferred safely to a lab.
As a result, they spend some time there each day. So, it’s not only important to get along well with the lab staff. You also have to make sure you understand their safety rules.
Laboratories may have different or extra rules in place to keep thing safe and infection-free. Keep in mind that more than just blood samples are being tested in labs.
There’s no room for error, which is why they have so many safety measures in place. Learning the lab’s safety rules will help to ensure the transfer of blood samples always goes smoothly.
Where Can a Phlebotomist Work?
The duties of a phlebotomist are generally the same no matter where you work.
You may have more responsibilities in a busy hospital than you do at a small private practice. Even though there is a shortage of phlebotomists in America, sometimes it can be frustrating if you can’t find a job right away. There are a few reasons for this problem.
You may not be looking in all the right places. Many people automatically assume that hospitals are the way to go for phlebotomists. While it’s true that hospitals hire a lot of phlebotomy techs, they aren’t the only option. Phlebotomists can work in small clinics, emergency clinics, and private practices. They can also work for local blood banks or even the Red Cross.
The other reason it can sometimes be hard to find a job as a phlebotomist is a lack of experience. We’ll talk more about that in the next section.
How to Gain Experience as an Entry-Level Phlebotomist
Some places won’t hire a phlebotomist to be on their staff until they have experience.
Hospitals don’t want to put patients at risk by using a phlebotomist who just recently completed their training. Even if you did exceptionally well through training, nothing could beat experience. The more successful sticks you’ve done, the better.
So, how can you gain experience if you can’t get hired right away? One of the best ways is to volunteer.
Many places that don’t hire phlebotomists for pay still need and use their services on a volunteer basis. So, while you won’t make money doing these jobs, you’ll gain experience. That’s a great resource to put on a resume and may help you get hired faster.
If you’re not sure where to look for volunteer opportunities, try some of the following places:
- Nursing homes
- Veterans’ hospitals
- Red Cross blood drives
- Local blood drives
Not only is volunteering a great way to build up your resume, but it can be a rewarding experience, too! You’ll feel great about using your skills to give back to your community or to people who need their blood drawn for different reasons.
Once you’ve gained enough experience, you’re more likely to be hired by hospitals or clinics. While you may still need to work under supervision for a while, it’s easier to get a job when you have some volunteer work and experience attached to your resume.
Is It Easy to Be a Phlebotomist?
Now that you have a better idea of what to expect as a phlebotomist, you can determine if it’s the right career for you. It’s an entry-level position, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t take hard work and dedication.
Phlebotomy is a springboard for other medical careers. But, some people choose to remain phlebotomists throughout their careers. Whatever you want, you can find success as a phlebotomy technician.
Even with less than a year of training, phlebotomy isn’t a job that you can coast through. You have to be on top of your game every day when you’re working with patients. If you can do that, you can have a long and lucrative career in this field.
You can help to fill the growing need for phlebotomists quickly. If you’ve been looking for a job in the medical field or new opportunities, this is a great place to start.