Profile: Phlebotomist

A long-time phlebotomist talks about her career.

phlebotomist

Yvette Coward
Phlebotomist and Health Screen Technician
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – Boston, MA

A graduate of Bryman College in 1982, Yvette earned her degree in medical assisting and in her longtime medical career has worked as a phlebotomist, medical assistant and medical office administrator. Still, she says, she's not done learning and wants to be even closer to the action. So she enrolled in a nursing program, to expand upon her skills as a registered nurse.

What was it like to begin your career in phlebotomy?

 

We were shown how to use venipuncture and butterfly techniques at Bryman, practicing on a fake arm with a fake vein. Then one day, the teacher just rolled up her sleeve and said, 'take my blood.' After graduating, I worked in a private pediatrics office where I started collecting blood samples. The very first patient I took blood from was a 14-year-old girl, and she passed out...I walked around very nervous the rest of the day.

What are some techniques you use in your work? 

 

We get a mixture of everyone at MIT—newborns, elderly, students. In addition to treating the general public, the MIT medical center also provides medical care to students and employees of the university. 

The phlebotomy techniques used at MIT included venipuncture, butterfly and heel stick, among others. (Note: See our sidebar for definitions of phlebotomy techniques and terms.)

I also spin tubes in a centrifuge to separate the plasma from the serum, and plant micro specimens in petri dishes before they are sent to the lab. 

What are some challenges you face while drawing blood?

 

Newborns have tiny veins that move around a lot. [For them] I use a special method called a heel stick, also called a capillary puncture. It requires a small needle and a steady hand. Once you can draw newborns, you can draw anyone. 

How do you continue to learn as a phlebotomist?

 

I'm constantly learning new things, both in school and on the job. There are seminars on specific skills like EKGs, and evening and online nursing courses [available]. I like to keep my mind moving. 

I've taken online, hybrid and evening courses for my nursing degree and am ready to start my 1-year clinical practical. I'm ready to get out from behind the scenes and start working more closely with patients.

How to Become a Phlebotomist

  • Certification - There are three ways to become a certified phlebotomist. Find out what the requirements are.
  • Training Courses - Different programs teach different courses. Get the information you need.
  • Salary Information - Salaries range by years of experience and responsibilities. Get salary and benefits information.
  • Phlebotomist Interview - Yvette's been a phlebotomist for 15 years. Her story shows us what it's really like.

Phlebotomy Techniques & Terms

Venipuncture: The most common method for drawing blood

Butterfly:
Used on the elderly and children with small veins 

Finger Stick:
For people with damaged or hard-to-find veins

Heel Stick or Capillary Puncture:
For newborns with tiny veins

Therapeutic Phlebotomy:
Reduces iron in the blood

Bleeding Time:
To find out how long it takes for blood to clot