It's an odd cultural quirk that so many people love vampires in books and movies, but hate giving blood at the hospital or clinic. However inconsistent it might be, it's a reality that phlebotomists face. They're the clinical staff who draw blood for testing or donation purposes, and training as a phlebotomist is one of the quickest ways to start a career in health care.
Formal training time for phlebotomists is pretty minimal, usually taking weeks rather than months. You'll need to spend at least 40 hours in the classroom, learning the basics of sanitation and sterilization, appropriate handling of samples, and biohazard disposal. Training also includes 100 to 200 hours of practical clinical experience, usually including at least 100 blood collections. Those should include large samples drawn from a vein, and small samples where you prick the patient's skin -- usually a fingertip -- and take a small smear of blood. You can be trained at a community college or teaching hospital, or in the military.
Some states license or register phlebotomists, and you'll have to apply to your state's board of licensing before you can practice. In most states phlebotomists aren't regulated, but individual employers might want to see a professional certification. You can be certified by passing exams administered by industry groups including the American Society for Clinical Pathology, American Medical Technologists or National Phlebotomy Association. You'll need to document your education and clinical experience, and pass a certification exam. If you've learned on the job rather than through formal training, AMT will accept 1,040 hours' job experience and the ASCP will accept one years' full-time experience in place of the required education.
If you're already practicing or training as a health-care professional in a different field, such as nursing, you'll often receive phlebotomy training as part of your education. Once you've completed the necessary 100 or more blood collections, you can apply for certification through the ASCP or one of the other organizations. Alternatively, you can learn your phlebotomy skills in the workplace after you've started working in the field.
Doctors rely on blood testing to make diagnoses, and to match patients' blood types for transfusions. That means there's a strong demand for phlebotomists. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted 15 percent growth in employment for lab technicians between 2010 and 2020, a group including phlebotomists. That's only average job growth but a 2011 survey by the ASCP found vacancy rates of 7.91 percent for phlebotomists, meaning the profession had to grow by that much just to meet current needs. Those who want to advance in the field can become certified blood donor technicians through experience or training, or become a blood banking technologist by going back to school and earning a bachelor's degree.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.