It’s safe to say that the love of needles does not run through everyone’s veins. People of all ages admit that they are apprehensive about getting blood work. Perhaps they happen to be bit a afraid of sharp objects. Or maybe they cringe or feel faint at the sight of blood. But like it or not, blood work is one of the most common methods to diagnose or test for illness and disease, or to screen for potential risks of disease. The needle-toting phlebotomist plays a huge role in this process.
Before you get out the gauze and needles, a phlebotomist must verify the identity of the patient and possibly, depending upon your specific place of employment, take and record vital signs. Many patients in line for blood work may be a bit nervous when you walk into the room. As a phlebotomist, it is your job to make your patients feel more at ease. Not only is explaining the procedure and calming fears a sign of good customer service, but the more relaxed your patient is, the easier your job is, too.
Phlebotomists go through a lot of latex gloves. Their main duty is to draw blood from patients at doctor’s offices, hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities for the purpose of laboratory testing. This is done through a process called venipuncture. First, you locate an accessible vein and sterilize the area, usually the inner elbow. Then you apply a tourniquet – usually a thick rubber band -- to help with blood flow and insert the needle to draw blood, which usually fills one or several small test tubes, depending on the test that was ordered. Phlebotomists also can collect blood from donors at blood drives or at donation centers and blood banks.
Label, Store and Deliver Samples
After samples are drawn from a patient, they must be labeled properly with the patient’s identification information, time of sample and other pertinent information specific to the type of test or tests being performed. Phlebotomists also transport the samples to the appropriate laboratory for testing, or -- in the case of donations -- placed in storage for future use, such as for a transfusion. Sometimes blood samples collected at a doctor’s office are sent to a third-party lab for processing, in which case the phlebotomist prepares samples for pickup by a medical courier.
Skills and Education
Phlebotomists should have a high school diploma or GED and complete a training program. Many schools offer diploma or certificate programs in phlebotomy; costs and program length varies from school to school. It goes without saying that phlebotomists need to have good manual dexterity to maneuver those tiny needles into the skin and veins of patients of all shapes and sizes. Also, the desire to work in a fast-paced environment and the flexibility to work all shifts is important.
Since 2000 Donna T. Beerman has contributed to newspapers and magazines. Her expertise includes higher education, marketing and social media, and her presentations and writing have won industry awards. She has an MFA in creative writing, is the integrated marketing manager at a Pennsylvania college and founded "Hippocampus Magazine."