What is phlebotomy?
Phlebotomy is a clinical procedure in which blood is taken out from your body. People suffering from conditions such as hemochromatosis, where there is an excess of iron content in the blood, or polycythemia, where the patient produces excessive amounts of red blood cells, regularly undergo phlebotomy to alleviate their condition.
The regular removal of blood lowers the body’s iron level by bringing down the population of red blood cells in the body.
Phlebotomy is performed by medical professionals in a clinical environment and the process bears considerable resemblance to blood donation.
A needle is inserted into an arm vein of the person undergoing the treatment, and approximately 500 milliliters of blood are taken out. The whole exercise takes around half an hour. There is no need for fasting or other special preparations in anticipation of the procedure.
In fact, medical experts recommend eating a healthy meal and drinking lots of fluids prior to it in order to avoid fainting / dizziness afterwards.
- 1 What is phlebotomy?
- 2 What does a phlebotomist do?
- 3 How do I become a phlebotomist?
- 3.1 Educational requirements:
- 3.2 Degree types:
- 3.3 Curriculum:
- 3.4 How to find a certificate program:
- 3.5 Requirements with respect to certifications:
- 3.6 Professional phlebotomy certifications:
- 3.7 Advancing your career further:
- 4 How long is phlebotomy training?
- 5 What are the best schools for phlebotomy?
- 6 Are there any phlebotomy classes online?
- 7 Final Word
The health professional will perform the procedure after making you lie down or sit, and your pulse / blood pressure will be monitored during the whole procedure.
How you’ll feel after the procedure?
People who have undergone phlebotomy have reported feeling dizzy and/or tired afterwards.
Relief may be obtained from these after-effects by resting for about a day after the procedure and drinking lots of fluids. Also, it is better to have a friend / family member take you home after the phlebotomy is done if you begin to feel these symptoms.
Why undergo phlebotomy?
The extra iron present in your blood eventually ends up in your bodily organs – in particular, the liver.
After some time, this extra iron can lead to serious tissue and organ damage. The extra iron is removed from your body by extraction of iron-rich blood cells through phlebotomy.
Removing the extra iron by means phlebotomy can greatly lower the risk of serious and sometimes fatal damage done to the liver, as well as other organs.
Are there any risks to it?
This procedure is completely safe if performed by a trained medical professional. A small bruise may result at the point on the arm where the skin was punctured by the needle, but keeping the puncture site pressed for some minutes after the needle has been taken out can lower this risk.
In uncommon cases, inflammation of the vein after the blood sample was taken has been reported – this phenomena is referred to as phlebitis; it is dealt with using a warm compress, which is applied to the affected site multiple times in one day.
As with other similar treatments, there is also a small chance of infection occurring at the site of puncture.
Note that the requirement for this treatment depends largely on the cause of the excessive iron levels in your body, and that you may not need to undergo it as frequently once the iron levels have been brought down to safe limits.
What does a phlebotomist do?
Phlebotomists are the professionals who collect blood for donations or testing so that it can be submitted to and studied at a medical laboratory.
The tests performed on these blood tests can be used to diagnose medical conditions, determine the efficacy of meds and ascertain whether the patient is getting proper nutrition. Furthermore, they may also take out blood samples for treating abnormal levels of iron / red blood cells in blood.
In order to take out blood from a vein in the arm, the phlebotomist will first apply a tourniquet to the arm’s upper portion to slow down the flow of blood. A swab of alcohol is also applied to disinfect the puncture side (close to the elbow’s inside).
The professional will then locate the patient’s vein and insert the needle – this process is known as venipuncture.
A phlebotomist may also take out blood samples by skin puncture e.g. puncturing the patient’s finger to test their blood sugar level or ascertain their blood type.
The professional must make sure that every piece of equipment is adequately sanitized before using it on the patient. Adequate storage, meticulous transportation and precise labeling are some of the crucial responsibilities of a phlebotomist who must also adhere to strict protocols with regard to safety, so as to avoid coming in direct contact with the patient’s blood.
A number of infectious diseases (including hepatitis and HIV) can spread through contact with infected blood. If the phlebotomist gets distracted even momentarily, a needle-stick injury can occur leading to potential infection.
Phlebotomists operate out of hospitals, clinical labs, nursing homes, blood donation camps, community health centers, doctor’s offices and other similar establishments.
Usually, they are under the supervision of a clinical lab technologist or some other medical professional.
Accuracy and care are two vital traits in this trade. The phlebotomist may have to take dozens of samples during a shift at a busy facility.
They must maintain this safety and accuracy, even under the most stressed conditions.
A high number of patients may be afraid of the needle, which is why the phlebotomist’s foremost job will be to put people like this at ease. The professional should be able to handle even the most emotional, angry and difficult patients.
In order to insert the needle in the vein, the phlebotomist has to have fine motor skills. They must also have good organization, and should be able to pay attention to the tiniest details.
Phlebotomists are normally paid at an hourly rate and their wages are dependent on their shift, location, education, as well as experience.
On average, a phlebotomist may earn between $25,000 and $30,500 annually.
A successful phlebotomist
A calm appearance, friendly attitude, attention to detail, and respectful appreciation of the procedure will play a major role in the success of the phlebotomist’s career, regardless of the workplace.
It is generally assumed that phlebotomists only operate in a controlled lab environment, but this isn’t always the case. The phlebotomist may have to perform their duties from inside a donation bus, or at a sponsored testing point / on-site blood drive.
Phlebotomists should be fully aware of the equipment they’ll need, how to operate it and keep it in a working state, and also how to perform the requisite phlebotomy tests for performing their job.
To this end, they must take a proper course in profession to gain all necessary phlebotomy information.
It is no wonder then, with the amount of work required in this field, that most beginner phlebotomists start their career on a part time basis, as they gradually develop their own comfort with the field. As their skills build up, their work hours do too and along with those, their responsibilities.
How do I become a phlebotomist?
Phlebotomy is a great choice of career for anyone who wants a face paced job that doesn’t require several years’ worth of education.
A technical certificate and a few other things are all that is required to enter this field which can lead to you to an entirely different profession later on in the field of medicine. As per your interests, you may start out as a phlebotomist and end up, eventually, a lab technician or medical assistant, after having gained some extra training / experience.
A phlebotomy degree isn’t a two or four year affair as with many other professions. Normally, the phlebotomist will begin their career after receiving phlebotomy career training with a span of just a quarter to 1 whole year!
Some of phlebotomy programs will have better career progression options than others so you need to be careful there too.
The phlebotomy degree which will enable you to enter the profession can have three levels:
If you’re interested in becoming a phlebotomist as soon as possible, your focus should be on equipment, physiology, procedure, terminology and technique of the field.
As such, your best bet will be the certificate program that focuses exclusively on all of these aspects.
A program such as this will have phlebotomy classes coupled with lab time, in order to give you quick academic experience alongside a clinical rotation which will serve as your phlebotomy technician training.
Associate level degree programs present the opportunity of expanding both your general education and your phlebotomy expertise.
They will provide a larger amount of flexibility upon graduation and should be a consideration for you if want to eventually end up as a lab tech or medical assistant.
If you want to take your career even further, you should opt for a bachelor’s degree in phlebotomy.
With this degree you will have a shot at supervisory post in the field, or may even become a medical technologist after some time.
No matter which degree level you opt for to enter the field, all programs will begin with the same basic phlebotomy courses.
A typical curriculum followed by a phlebotomy school will focus on physiology and anatomy (these will get you ready for the blood extraction part of your job, besides any complications that may arise in your work).
You will be educated in the utilization, adjustment, assembly and maintenance of laboratory equipment so that you are able to perform your culturing / collection duties at the job.
Furthermore, you will be versed in medical chemistry related to the field – this will vastly enhance your understanding of the process and boost your efficiency.
A typical phlebotomy program will also incorporate interpersonal communication and psychology. The art of calming, questioning and assessing a patient without upsetting them further will be a vital part of your phlebotomy training.
How to find a certificate program:
Heading out into this field, you should begin by contacting local hospitals as well as community colleges.
Also, be on the lookout for trade schools that offer seminars / short term technical certification programs in the field.
These programs have two essential benefits – they impart clinical expertise and their tuition cost is lower.
The average cost of a basic certificate in phlebotomy runs at around $1500 – $3500; the course is taught either in-person or online.
These intense courses will leave you with some serious work experience that more than makes up for the already low cost. The practical experience you gain is the most crucial aspect of phlebotomy education and it will train you precisely as your job description requires.
Should the program you’re scoping out not involve clinical hours, you should immediately look elsewhere for your training.
Requirements with respect to certifications:
License and registration for phlebotomy practice isn’t mandatory in all US states, but each state does have laws that define the requirements for phlebotomy practice. Before searching for a certification program, however, it is advisable to check with the state health department about any relevant regulations.
For example, Louisiana and California, have the requirement that the phlebotomist have completed a minimum of forty class hours, forty clinical practice hours, fifty venipunctures and ten skin punctures, before they can be issued their license.
If you desire to take your professional licensing to the next level, the ACSP phlebotomy certification offered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology, among other national phlebotomy certifications should be your aim.
These agencies have much stricter certification requisites e.g. you are expected to have a hundred venipunctures, as well as a minimum of 140 practical experience hours under your belt!
Professional phlebotomy certifications:
There are three widely recognized bodies that offer professional phlebotomy certifications in the US. You should seek a certification with one of them after having completed your basic phlebotomy training:
The American Society for Clinical Pathology:
The PBT (phlebotomy technician) certification offered here has a $125 fee for applying, and one of the following six set of requisites have to be met:
- Have a high school diploma (or an equivalent certification) as well as having completed a phlebotomy course approved by the NAACLS /or the California Health Services department in the last 5 years.
- Have a high school diploma / equivalent as well as having accomplished a formal, structured two-part phlebotomy program in the last five years which comprised of 40 hours of classroom education that included physiology and analogy of the circulatory system, handling and processing of specimen, collecting specimen and lab operations; 100 clinical training / orientation hours in a lab regulated and accredited by the CLIA [100 unaided blood collections, inclusive of skin and venipunctures, must have been performed in these 100 hours].
- Have a high school diploma / equivalent as well as having completed one year’s worth of full time practical experience as a phlebotomy tech in a lab regulated / accredited by the CLIA in the last 5 years. Skin punctures and venipunctures must be part of this experience.
- Have a high school diploma / equivalent and also have completed an LPN, RN or similar accredited, acceptable allied health occupational / professional training that includes training / orientation in phlebotomy at a lab accredited and regulated by the CLIA. A minimum of 100 successful blood collections (venipunctures, skin punctures) without any help from another phlebotomist must also be a part of the education. A notarized copy of their present provincial/state license for LPN/RN must be submitted by the applicants. The same holds for any other similar training program they were part of.
- Have an MT/MLS or MLT certification from ACSP.
- Have a DPT certification from ACSP as well as having performed at least 100 unaided, successful non-donor blood collections that involved skin punctures and venipunctures at a lab regulated / accredited by the CLIA in the past 5 years.
National Phlebotomy Association:
This not for profit organization specifically focuses on phlebotomy certifications. A phlebotomy certification exam has to be cleared by the applicant, after they’ve met the following basic requirements:
- Completion of an allied health program which includes clinical training and venipuncture techniques. 16 continuing education units must be awarded by the program. Alternatively, it must be presented as a course that has a minimum of 160 lecture hours [these don’t include the phlebotomy practical]. A minimum of 200 practical experience hours must also be included in the program – clinical practicum or mannequins or a conjunction of both can be employed for this hands on training.
- A transcript evaluation has to be submitted that indicates completion of the requisite courses.
- A phlebotomist / other health care technicians whose job description includes phlebotomy, can apply for certification through the Reclamation Clause given that they:
• Are presently performing phlebotomy duties as per their job requirement.
• Have a minimum of 1 year work experience [can be both paid as well as volunteer] – clinical experience isn’t accepted.
• Submit a confirmatory letter from their supervisor / employer about the duration they were employed.
• Have a $130 certification fee.
American Medical Technologists:
A number of certifications are offered by this organization including the designation of Registered Phlebotomy Technician or RPT. The AMT makes it easy for new technicians to handle the post certification process by providing good accessibility to details on continuing education workshops and courses.
This body has the following requirements:
- Have a good moral character.
- Have graduated / have a scheduled graduation from:
• A US Education Department approved organization’s accredited phlebotomy program.
• An accepted program at an institute that has accreditation from a US Education Department approved regional / national accrediting body.
- Have completed, successfully, an approved phlebotomy program that had a minimum of 120 hours of clinical practice as well as 120 hours of didactic training.
- Have done a minimum of 1040 work hours, that are valid, as a PBT in the last 3 years – this involves training with skin punctures, intravenous punctures, clerical work, comm. skills and specimen processing.
- If you apply for the certifications on the basis of the requirements mentioned above, it is binding that at least 25 successful skin punctures and at least 50 successful venipunctures. The AMT RPT certification exam must also be cleared.
- If you have cleared a phlebotomy exam for the sake of earning a state license, you are qualified for an RPT certification.
- If you possess other certifications related to phlebotomy obtained through examination, and meet the requirements of experience and training set forth by AMT, you may be able to attain their RPT certification without a further exam.
Note: Besides these bodies, prospective phlebotomists may also seek certification from ACA, NCCT, NPCE, NHA and AAMA. You can prepare for the exams required by these bodies using online phlebotomy practice tests; indeed, there are some websites that offer specialized tests for each certifying body.
Advancing your career further:
Here is a description of a typical associate degree program, opted for by many who want to enter the field:
An associate degree is basically a specialized undergraduate level degree which takes around two years to acquire. This degree usually prepares the students for an extra profession (besides phlebotomy) related to the field of medicine e.g. medical assistant or electrocardiogram (EKG) technician.
Why go for an associate’s degree?
This degree will show to potential employers that you have a strong commitment with the field of medicine besides providing you with a deeper understanding of phlebotomy than a certificate. Since the associate level degree will usually incorporate various other study fields, as a graduate you will have a larger number of options when it comes to career progression. A professional with better abilities and skills will be far more valuable to their employer which will translate into better pay, as well as job security. A sense of credibility and higher esteem will accompany your associate’s degree.
As a student, you will be expected to complete enough classes to amount to 90 credits before you can graduate. Certain colleges also offer the option for part of the classes to be taken online.
A 60 week associate of applied science program in EKG-Phlebotomy is offered at Stratford University which prepares the student to handle a 12-lead EKG device, as well as extract and collect urine and blood samples, and also detect heart disease.
The students will be taught these skills through courses like cardiac rehabilitation, blood chemistry analysis, basic clinical procedures etc. Several colleges will also need the students to be involved in an internship so they can gain practical experience outside of the classroom.
After attaining the phlebotomy degree you will be ready for a career that involves sampling blood at a private practice, blood bank, hospital etc. You will be working full time, most likely, putting in around forty hours a week.
Normally, you’ll get better paid for your expertise at a hospital or other large medical facility as compared to a private practice. However, you should expect your daily wages to be affected by the location, as well as the facility.
How long is phlebotomy training?
As explained above, phlebotomy education is split into several phases, and each phase can last for a variable amount of time:
Primary training phase:
Aspiring phlebotomists have to get themselves enrolled into a training program accredited by one of the bodies mentioned above. The students who many credits in sciences may find the training phase easier since it is highly focused on science.
The curriculum will use a great deal of medical terminology, besides physiology and anatomy. The classroom will be focused on how best to keep the blood samples and the patient intact.
A hands-on clinical part may also be involved in these training programs where the students will have the opportunity to take out blood and handle patients under professional supervision.
Depending on the amount of coursework involved in the training program – it will last one or two semesters i.e. four or eight months.
Certification & Licensing:
Those who clear the basic training phase can apply for work immediately, but a phlebotomy technician certification is what will really open doors for them. As soon as they meet the minimum requirements of the particular certification (discussed above), they can apply for it.
Therefore, the length of this part of their phlebotomy education will depend on how long it takes them to rack up the requirement criteria for a certification. Furthermore, there are some states that also require phlebotomists to get licensed, which will require an extra exam.
Once this second stage is cleared, the phlebotomist becomes a proper professional, ready to work at any medical center full time.
Phlebotomy has the lowest educational requirements in the medical lab, which is why it is preferred by those who want to start earning rapidly, or those who can’t afford a length bachelor’s or associate’s degree program.
That being said, many employers encourage their staff to upgrade their medical skills through subsidies. If you want your career to grow into something bigger, you should take advantage of these cross-training programs so you can learn related trades such as histotechnology, cytotechnology, blood banking etc.
You may also opt for an associate’s or bachelor’s degree later on in your career so you have enough credentials to end up as medical technician or even a medical supervisor.
What are the best schools for phlebotomy?
Here is a breakdown of some phlebotomy schools, their costs, features and requirements:
|San Diego Mesa College||- $26/unit for California residents|
- Books, uniforms, supplies, exam fees and background check cost paid by student
|- Placement requirements must be matched|
- English training must be competed.
- High school diploma / GED
|- Awards a Certificate of Performance in Phlebotomy|
- Course involves at least 50 – 100 venipunctures, 25 successful capillary and 2 arterial punctures
- Ideal for phlebotomy training San Diego residents because of low cost
|Monroe - 2 Orleans BOCES||- $2000 for tuition|
- Study books for this phlebotomy training Rochester NY program cost extra
|- High school diploma / GED||- 124 hour course|
- 10-11 week span
- Classes on Tuesday / Thursday / Saturday
|University of California in Los Angeles||- CPR certification|
- High school diploma
- Background check clearance
- Insurance / medical
- 80% overall grade required for passing
|- 8 week course|
- Classes in evenings and on Saturday
- Clinical rotations
- 40 hour clinical
- 50 venipunctures
- 10 skin punctures
|Phlebotomy Schools in Los Angeles have to meet pretty strict regulations just like other phlebotomy schools in California state.|
|Cranston Alternate Education Program||- $900 program cost|
- $25 registration fee
- Students purchase misc. items e.g. books
|- Phlebotomy Technician Program|
- Monday / Wednesday classes
|One of the cheaper institutes to offer phlebotomy classes in RI|
|City Colleges of Chicago - Wilbur Wright College||- High school diploma / GED|
- Placement test and English course completion
- Background check
- Immunization / drug screening
- Health insurance for clinicals
|- 7 month accelerated phlebotomy training Chicago|
- 120 hours clinical training
|Broome Community College||- Phlebotomy certification NY prepares the students for immediate entry at a medical practice|
- 28 credit hours
- 160 hours clinical practice
- 2 semesters
Here are a few things worth noting when searching for a phlebotomy school to enroll in:
Location and timing:
The school has to be in driving distance of your home. If you’re working part time, then the timings of the classes will also be a crucial factor. Some schools take evening classes on alternate weekdays and morning classes on the weekend to allow working students to balance their workload.
Accreditation / licensing:
It goes without saying that the school must be recognized by one of the bodies listed in the previous sections in order for it to be considered by you.
Good phlebotomy schools will offer programs at all the three qualification levels mentioned above. You can start up with the basic training and enter the field, building up your educational qualifications as you earn money.
This is one of the defining characteristics of a truly good school. Always check with the school you’re considering whether they have networking with hospitals and other medical practices where they can line you up with a job after you graduation. This cannot be stressed enough – there are many graduated phlebotomists who chose the wrong school and had to settle for a small pay – or worse – unemployment.
Are there any phlebotomy classes online?
If you are unable to attend a regular offline phlebotomy program, you can always opt for an online program. For example, those who are working full-time or part-time jobs may find it difficult to muster the time and energy to attend classes at a regular schools so they can resort to phlebotomy courses online.
Offline vs online phlebotomy certification
The offline programs compel the student to study at a prescribed time every day. On the other hand, phlebotomy training online empowers the student in the sense that they can go through their study material at leisure. This is a double edged sword however, since it can lead to a false sense of relaxedness if your self-discipline isn’t strong.
Access to an instructor:
The offline program will give you one-to-one time with the instructor so you can clarify your doubts and queries directly. However, you won’t enjoy this level of interaction in an online program where you’ll be communicating via video chats and emails.
Flexibility of timing: Opting for a phlebotomy certification online means that you’ll be able to choose you timetable for study on your own, which certainly isn’t the case with offline programs.
Averagely speaking, online programs are usually cheaper than offline ones because they don’t have to make up for the rental costs or the salary of the instructor.
Prospects with employers
Employers have no problem accepting an online phlebotomy qualification given that you take your online classes from an institute accredited with a recognized body.
Moreover, you should also ensure that the online program meets the requirements set forth by your state.
An online phlebotomy program will also require you to gain clinical experience just like an offline program.
Free phlebotomy training:
You can acquire phlebotomy training online at no cost in specific conditions. Firstly, if you’re unemployed, you can check with your state’s unemployment office to see if they can get you enrolled in a short phlebotomy course.
If you’re already working in a medical lab and want to become a phlebotomist, you can file a request for sponsorship with your employer but remember, in the event that they fund your training, you’ll have to enter a contract that will bind you to work for them for a certain period of time.
Phlebotomy technicians play a vital role in modern health care. The blood samples they take are used in the diagnoses of illnesses, as well as nutritional deficiencies.
It is the phlebotomists job to ensure that the blood sample remains pure and unaffected so that a correct diagnosis is obtained.
The days of leeches may be past, but blood extraction still remains a powerful diagnosis tool, as well as the only cure for certain health problems.
Want to find out more? Read our Salary and Careers guide.