What is a Phlebotomist?

If you’ve ever had your blood drawn, whether for donations or a lab test, then you’ve most likely encountered a phlebotomist.

Phlebotomy is the medical term for drawing blood, specifically for purposes of blood analysis via lab work, and phlebotomists or phlebotomy technicians are the people who typically handle this job. These professionals have a specific job description, but you may be surprised to learn that phlebotomists don’t need an advanced degree. They do, however, need specialized training and certification.

The Role of Phlebotomists

Phlebotomists draw blood and send samples to labs for analysis. They work in several settings within the medical field, including hospitals, private practices, blood banks and diagnostic laboratories.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS, 38 percent of phlebotomy technicians work in hospitals while just 9 percent work in physicians offices. Phlebotomists can also work on a mobile basis, especially when it comes to setting up blood drives for donations.

Drawing blood may be their primary role, but phlebotomy techs also need to measure out the right amount of blood, label the vials correctly and ensure that patients match their samples. They’re responsible for sending correct samples to laboratories and making sure that blood donations get handled appropriately.

Education, Traits and Skills

If you’re interested in becoming a phlebotomy tech, then you don’t need to spend a long time in school. Phlebotomists typically attend a phlebotomy training program at vocational school or community college, and programs generally only last about a year. You’ll take classes in subjects such as anatomy, medical terminology and blood sample labeling. Practical experience includes clinical work in blood drawing.

The BLS points out that you don’t have to be certified to work as a phlebotomy technician, but many employers prefer phlebotomists to hold certification from one of several organizations. These include the National Center for Competency Testing, the American Medical Technologists, the National Healthcareer Association and the American Society for Clinical Pathology.

Along with specialized training, phlebotomists need to demonstrate certain character traits to be successful in the field. Some people dislike having their blood drawn, so phlebotomists should be reassuring, calm and compassionate with their patients. In some cases, phlebotomists are the only medical personnel that a patient will interact with, which means that they need to be patient and understanding with the general public as well.

Demand for Phlebotomists

In an overview of the role of phlebotomists, U.S. News and World Report ranks this job at number 19 among a list of the best health care support jobs and number 86 on a list of the top 100 jobs overall. Phlebotomists earn an average of $30,670 per year, and the highest-paid phlebotomists work in California.

Over the next decade, phlebotomy techs should see demand increase by about 25 percent, which is faster than average for other occupations. With the rise in health care insurance across the United States, there will be greater demand for health care support jobs, including phlebotomists.

Blood drawing is intricate, necessary work that’s been relegated to a specific occupation. U.S. News and World Report notes that phlebotomists enjoy a good work-life balance, low stress and solid career opportunities. If you’re interested in becoming a phlebotomist, then enrolling in a training program that leads to certification could help you to secure a position in this growing field.