What is a Phlebotomist?
A phlebotomist is a key member of a healthcare team, tasked with taking blood samples from patients or donors. In addition to mastering clinical skills, they must also work well with people, offering comfort and reassurance to patients with a fear of needles or blood.
Phlebotomy technicians must like challenge and responsibility. They must also be accurate, work well under pressure and communicate effectively. Because they work directly with patients, they must notice and relay any important information gained during interactions to doctors, nurses, and laboratory professionals.
In this Article
What You’ll Do as a Phlebotomist
Some of your responsibilities will include:
It’s important to remember that every time a phlebotomist draws blood or sends out lab samples, they are creating or adding to that patient’s blood history. This key part of the patient’s health profile will be in their record for a lifetime.
Phlebotomy technicians work in hospitals, laboratories, physician’s offices, donation facilities, and other healthcare settings where blood is taken and analyzed. Some technicians travel to call on patients who are homebound. In large hospitals or in independent laboratories that operate continuously, technicians usually work the day, evening or night shift and may work on weekends or holidays. Technicians in smaller facilities may work rotating shifts. Some take emergency calls several nights a week or on weekends.
As the job description expands, career opportunities increase, and the outlook for employment as a pharmacy technician is very strong. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2019 Occupational Outlook Handbook, with a large percentage of the population aging the field is expected to increase by 4% through 2029, which is on par with all other occupations.
This means that now is an excellent time to become a pharmacy technician. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
Where Phlebotomists Work
Take a look at the most common work environments for phlebotomists, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Diagnostic and medical laboratories
Accredited phlebotomy programs usually take from one semester to one year to complete, culminating in a certificate or diploma. Coursework generally includes the following:
Coursework and Training
Courses you’ll take:
Anatomy and physiology
Blood and cell composition
Blood sampling procedures
Basic venipuncture techniques
Butterfly techniques for the elderly and children
Fingerstick methods for damaged or hard-to-find veins
Heel stick or capillary puncture for newborns
Programs will also cover lab equipment handling skills and proper methods to clean up spills to prevent infection and physical harm. Some programs also include CPR certification.
Skills and Traits for the Job
As a phlebotomist, you’ll work with everyone from infants to the elderly, so you’ll need to be able to deal with the entire spectrum of people. Here are a few skills and traits to consider.
- An active listener
- A clear communicator
- Comfortable working with the public
- Deft with tools
You should have…
- Excellent people skills
- Time management skills
- A knack for critical thinking
- A soothing presence
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for phlebotomists in 2019 was $36,480. Salaries can range depending on where you work. The highest 10% earned more than $49,750, with the highest earners typically working in outpatient care canters, hospitals, and diagnostic medical laboratories.
While certification is optional, it is highly recommended as most employers require it. The following agencies offer testing that awards the Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT) or Registered Phlebotomy Technician (RPT) titles to those who pass:
Agencies that Award Certification
American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)
American Medical Technologists (AMT)
American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians
Certified phlebotomy technicians must obtain continuing education credits or complete certification management programs to maintain their status. Phlebotomy technicians can enhance their employability by becoming certified as Donor Phlebotomy Technicians (DPT), qualifying them to work in blood collection centers.