How to Become a Phlebotomist

A phlebotomist is someone who collects blood specimens from patients who are being diagnosed and treated by a variety of healthcare providers. Because of the importance of these specimens, individuals in this profession are employed in several healthcare establishments that can include hospitals, blood banks, laboratories, and clinics. Unlike advanced fields of medical care, those who pursue this path are not going to encounter regulatory hurdles that make it difficult to enter the profession. In fact, no state in the US requires the phlebotomy technician to become licensed and only a few states have certification requirements built into their statutory code.

How to Become a Phlebotomist

Since nationally recognized certification is a common standard used by employers to verify the competence of a technician, it seems logical to develop one’s understanding of how to become a phlebotomist on the eligibility requirements established by well-respected certifying organizations. The American Medical Technologist (AMT) and the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) are two popular organizations in the industry that can provide insight into how an individual might go about entering the profession. As always, those who plan to pursue this career path are advised to contact potential employers to learn more about their unique expectations prior to enrolling in a training program or scheduling an exam date. Employers often have different hiring requirements that could dramatically impact the way in which an individual enters the profession. Developing an understanding of these variations early in the career development process can save time, money, and energy.

The AMT has two routes that can be taken to qualify for the phlebotomist exam. The first route requires an individual to be a graduate of an accredited phlebotomy training program. In order to be accredited, the program needs to be approved by a regional or national agency that is recognized by the Department of Education, Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or the AMT Board of Directors. The program is also required to include at least 120 hours of classroom instruction and hands-on clinical experience. Individuals who use this route to become eligible for the exam must have graduated within the previous four years. Although this route is an excellent option and one that is commonly followed, it is important to consider the alternatives when learning about how to become a phlebotomist.

The second route for becoming eligible to sit for the AMT certification exam is based on practical experience in the profession. Individuals who have completed a minimum of 1,040 hours of work experience as a technician within the past three years and who provide proof of graduation from high school may become eligible to take the exam. It is mandatory for the experience to include venipuncture and skin puncture, specimen processing, communication skills, and clerical duties. In addition, the facility in which the technician is employed must be approved by the Board and must regularly engage in the collection, examination, or transport of materials derived from the human body. Applicants wanting to acquire the registered phlebotomy technician (RPT) credential and who hasve passed another approved organization’s exam are not required to sit for the exam as long as they have met the requirements for either route outlined above.

The NCCT has six routes to become eligible to take the National Certified Patient Care Technician (NCPCT) exam. The first 2 routes require an applicant to either be a current student in a phlebotomy technician training program authorized by the NCCT or have graduated from such a program in the past ten years. Those using this route must have a high school diploma or GED, a copy of the phlebotomy certificate or diploma, and the phlebotomy technician certification critical skill competency form. Those who have completed training in the military are offered a similar educational route. Individuals who have military credentials must have a high school diploma or GED, submit a copy of a SMART transcript or DD214, and complete the critical skill form linked to above.

Another route for NCPCT exam eligibility is based on experience within the profession. Applicants who use this route to become eligible must have a high school diploma or GED, one year of full-time employment or 2,080 hours of experience as a phlebotomy technician under the direct supervision of a physician or primary care provider within the past ten years, and submit the phlebotomy technician certification qualification by experience form. The other routes require applicants to have equivalent credentials to those outlined above or ten consecutive years of teaching experience as a phlebotomy technician. For those who are attempting to evaluate the best route for how to become a phlebotomist, an training program or a minimum of one year of experience are likely going to be the most popular options.

A career as a phlebotomist is an excellent employment option for those who want to work in healthcare, but with a minimal amount of college education or specialized training. The phlebotomy technician performs a service that is highly valued within the industry and that is essential to the effective management of medical conditions. Because there is a fair amount of variability in hiring expectations between employers, it is a good idea for aspiring technicians to take time to contact potential employers to find out how to become a phlebotomist in their facility. This approach can help to streamline the career advancement process and can serve to accelerate entry into the profession.

What is Phlebotomy

In the most basic terms, phlebotomy is the process of collecting blood samples using a needle to access an individual’s veins. This procedure is also commonly referred to as venipuncture and is performed by a medical specialist called a phlebotomist. Those who work in this profession are valuable members of the medical team because they help nurses, physicians, and other providers evaluate, monitor, and treat a variety of medical conditions. Individuals who have been exploring the possibility of a career in an allied health profession are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the field so that they can make an informed decision about the professional career path that is most appropriate for them.

What is Phlebotomy

The collection of blood specimens through venipuncture is one of the most common invasive medical procedures that is performed in a healthcare setting. Although there are several types of medical providers qualified to collect samples from patients, the phlebotomist is the only person who specializes in the procedure. In most cases, the phlebotomy technician will gather samples after a physician or nurse has submitted an order using either verbal or nonverbal communication. The blood that is collected is used for several purposes including diagnosis, monitoring, treatment, tranfusions, and analysis. As you can see, the basic answer to the question what is phlebotomy is fairly straightforward, but the rationale for performing the procedure can be complex.

How are Blood Samples Collected

Blood is most commonly removed from the patient’s body using a needle to access the median cubital vein located just under the skin in the forearm area nearest the elbow. People who have donated blood are familiar with this area because it is where the technicians insert the needle. In cases where small amounts of blood are needed, the phlebotomist may elect to use a finger stick or heel stick technique. Most technicians are willing to provide specific details to answer the question what is phlebotomy in the event that the patient is curious about how blood will be collected. The equipment used to draw blood varies depending on the access point and the size of the specimen that is required.

The most common tool used to collect blood products for standard analysis is referred to as an evacuated tube. This system is constructed using a hypodermic needle, plastic hub, and vacuum tube. The first step in the procedure is to carefully insert the needle into the vein. A special type of sleeve and cannula prevents blood from exiting the vein before the negative pressure tube is connected. After the tube is connected, it draws blood from the vein. Technicians will remove the tube once it has filled to a certain point. In most cases, several tubes of blood will be collected so that a series of tests can be run. In addition to using tubes with different mediums, a phlebotomist may choose from many different sizes of needles. While smaller needles are generally less painful, they may not always be practical if large amounts of blood are being collected.

Phlebotomy as a Treatment Modality

Some medical conditions are best treated through the repeated removal of blood from the body. In these cases, the answer to the question what is phlebotomy is therapeutic rather than diagnostic. A disease that is often treated using phlebotomy is known as hemochromatosis. This condition is characterized by an accumulation of iron in the patient’s body resulting from genetics, transfusions, excessive supplementation and dietary consumption, or secondary to other diseases. Hemochromatosis is harmful to the body because it damages the liver, heart, and endocrine glands. Some conditions that can result from the disease include cirrhosis, arthritis, diabetes, bronzing of the skin, and cardiomyopathy. Patients who suffer from this disease benefit from repeated phlebotomy because it serves to remove iron rich blood from the body.

Side Effects and Discomfort

Many people are apprehensive about having blood removed from their body through the process of phlebotomy. While it is natural for humans to become anxious during the procedure, encounters typically occur without incident and result in minimal amounts of discomfort. In situations where individuals are disturbed by the process or in cases where large quantities of blood are being removed, patients may become dizzy or lightheaded. Lying flat and consuming small amounts of food and water may help alleviate the discomfort. Other potential side effects include bruising of the puncture site and infection. In either case, the condition will either subside on its own without treatment or can be treated with warm compresses applied to the area many times each day.

Phlebotomist Career Path

A career as a phlebotomist is personally and professionally rewarding for those who want to have a positive impact on the lives of others without completing several years of college and specialty training. While it can be challenging to help patients through the procedure, the ability to adequately answer the question what is phlebotomy can go a long way in making individuals less apprehensive. Those who choose to pursue this industry can expect to become valued members of the medical team and benefit from strong job growth for the foreseeable future.