The journey toward becoming a qualified phlebotomist varies. To gain admission into a phlebotomy program, you must have a GED or high school diploma. However, phlebotomy is easier, compared to most other health professions, to get started in – you can enter most phlebotomy schools immediately after completing high school.
Typically, a phlebotomy course takes less than a year to complete, and you will receive a diploma or certificate upon graduation.
This article takes a look at the career path, explains how you can become a tech and how you can land your first job.
What Is Phlebotomy?
Phlebotomy technicians are medical professionals who help people draw blood at hospitals or other healthcare facilities. Besides drawing blood, a phlebotomist performs blood transfusions, assists blood donors, and conducts research. A phlebotomy technician also records patients’ blood pressure, oxygen levels, and temperature.
Is Phlebotomy Schooling Right For You?
To succeed as a phlebotomist, you must be compassionate. Nobody enjoys getting their blood drawn, so you should show some empathy. Dexterity is also necessary to ensure you can insert the needle into a vein on your first attempt whenever possible.
It would be best if you also had good attention to detail. Remember, you’re not just drawing blood; you should draw a specific amount that you must enter into a database and label correctly. Mislabeling or mixing up blood samples can have terrible consequences for patients.
How To Become A Phlebotomy Technician
Once you figure out that phlebotomy is a good fit for you, follow these steps to complete a course of phlebotomy schooling:
1. Complete High School
Receiving your high school diploma is usually the first step toward all professional careers, including phlebotomy. Today, some high schools offer their students phlebotomy courses. In addition, a high school program may help you forgo phlebotomy schooling after you graduate. However, in many cases, you have to enroll in a professional program after high school.
2. Complete Your Phlebotomy Program
You can enroll in a phlebotomy program at one of several institutions, including nursing schools and community colleges. A program usually takes about one year to complete and involves classroom training in courses such as medical terminology, physiology, and human anatomy.
Phlebotomy schooling also includes clinical training in blood drawing procedures. Clinical training at a medical establishment or hospital requires you to provide proof of your high school graduation, up-to-date immunization records, and receipts showing that you have paid tuition in full.
Clinical training programs will teach you the correct way to handle laboratory equipment, how to clean up spills so you can prevent contamination, and may even involve CPR training.
On completion of your training program, you receive a certificate.
3. Get Certified
Several bodies provide certification for phlebotomy technicians in the US:
The American Society for Clinical Pathology
The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) confers participants with a Phlebotomy Technician (PBT) certification. Earning this certificate depends on paying a $135 application fee, passing a phlebotomy examination, and meeting training requirements. The requirements include earning a high school diploma, completing a certificate program, and accumulating at least a year of relevant work experience in a clinical or accredited lab setting.
The National Phlebotomy Association
This association is a non-profit organization specializing in phlebotomy certification. To gain certification from the NPA, you must pass the association’s certification examination and meet several other requirements within an allied health program, including:
- venipuncture techniques
- clinical training
- 200 hours of experience in a clinical setting
- theory-based education
The NPA’s website also outlines a certification process you can follow if you do not have the requisite education but have experience working as a phlebotomist.
The American Medical Technologists
The American Medical Technologists is an organization that offers various certifications, including a Registered Phlebotomy Technician (RPT) certificate through work experience or an approved phlebotomy schooling program. Moreover, the AMT provides a simple post-certification process if you are a new technician. Other requirements for certification by The American Medical Technologists are:
- Graduating from a phlebotomy program that includes a minimum of 120 class hours, or
- accumulating at least 1,040 hours of experience as a phlebotomist in the last three years.
How To Choose A Phlebotomy School
Overall, picking the school for your phlebotomy program is a matter of functionality and personal preference. However, there are several things you should look out for and a few to avoid.
Many hospitals, clinics, community colleges, and universities offer phlebotomy schooling, and, in most cases, these institutions provide quality training programs that you can trust.
If you choose to complete your phlebotomy program elsewhere, you should protect yourself by ensuring the school you select is accredited to offer the program.
An excellent source of information on the different phlebotomy educational programs is the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). This agency is a leader in approving and accrediting clinical laboratory sciences schooling programs and training in similar health professions.
Location Of The Phlebotomy School
A school’s location could also play a significant part in selecting the best phlebotomy program for you. Consider that when you are in a classroom setting, you are likely to require more than 120 hours of training before you earn your certificate. Therefore, choosing an institution far from your home or inconvenient to travel to is not a great idea.
If you have trouble finding a school nearby, there are numerous phlebotomy training programs online – ensure that the one you select also provides hands-on, practical courses.
If a program offers certification with less than 40 hours of classroom lessons or does not require a minimum of 120 hours of practical coursework, then signing up may not be a good idea. You must be as skilled as possible in venipuncture, which is only possible through constant hands-on experience.
Most places will not even consider hiring you if you do not have at least 120 hours of practical experience in drawing blood. Venipuncture can be the most challenging part of your entire phlebotomy schooling experience, but it is the most critical because it is what you have to do at your job every day.
Job Placement Programs
Choosing a school that offers a strong job placement program is a good idea. Look out for schools or institutions with strong connections with clinics, hospitals, or private practices in your area. A program with a solid track record of finding employment for its graduates will work in your favor.
Also, don’t be afraid to start networking with people in the healthcare community during your training.
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.