How To Become a Phlebotomist
Phlebotomists provide a vital service in the healthcare industry. Learn more about the training and certification for phlebotomists.
- Most phlebotomists earn a postsecondary non-degree credential from a phlebotomy program.
- Four states require certification for phlebotomists, and many employers prefer a postsecondary credential.
- Phlebotomists complete continuing education to maintain their certification or work qualifications.
- Phlebotomists contribute to healthcare by collecting blood and alleviating patients' anxieties.
Phlebotomists — or phlebotomy technicians — collect blood through venous or skin punctures. These professionals play a vital role in healthcare, particularly in diagnosing and treating diseases and conditions. Patients may receive phlebotomy services to test for specific medical conditions, donate blood or plasma, or undergo transfusions.
Phlebotomy technicians also must uphold high standards when labeling biological samples, using needles and other equipment, and entering medical information into databases. Because these professionals handle biological samples, they must perform their tasks safely and with attention to detail.
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Many phlebotomists find it rewarding to interact with patients and contribute to their care. Patients often feel uneasy about undergoing a blood draw, and compassionate phlebotomists can help calm their fears. These technicians can also explain why collecting blood is important.
Employment prospects for phlebotomists look promising. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs in this field will grow 22% between 2020-2030, compared to 16% for other healthcare support jobs and 8% for all occupations over the same period.
What Are the Requirements to Be a Phlebotomist?
Aspiring phlebotomists must first graduate from high school or obtain a GED certificate. While in high school, it may help to take classes in science and anatomy. Individuals can then enroll in a phlebotomy program, which usually requires 4-8 months of training and leads to certification. Such programs can be found at trade schools, technical schools, and community colleges.
Phlebotomy graduates who work in California, Louisiana, Nevada, and Washington must obtain certification to practice. However, professionals in other states should still consider getting a postsecondary credential to increase their employment opportunities. Phlebotomists can choose from various certifications, including:
- Certified Phlebotomy Technician I: prepares professionals to perform skin and venous punctures to collect blood
- Certified Phlebotomy Technician II: prepares professionals to carry out skin, venous, and arterial punctures for blood collection
- Limited Phlebotomy Technician: prepares professionals to collect blood through skin punctures
Certification requires passing a written and practical exam. The written test includes about 300 questions, and the clinical component requires demonstration of skin and venous blood draws, sample labeling, and sanitization procedures. Phlebotomists can acquire certification from one of several organizations:
- American Certification Agency for Healthcare Professionals
- American Medical Technologists
- American Society for Clinical Pathology
- American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians
- National Center for Competency Testing
- National Healthcareer Association
- National Phlebotomy Association
Phlebotomists must complete continuing education to stay current in their field — especially those who need to renew their certification. States vary in their requirements for continued phlebotomist training, although many professionals need to complete about six continuing education credits each year. Phlebotomists may be able to attend conferences or take classes at community colleges or vocational schools to meet these requirements.
What Does Phlebotomist Training Look Like?
Acquiring appropriate training and obtaining certification are important steps in learning how to become a phlebotomist. Certification programs require classroom instruction and laboratory experience. Courses generally cover topics like anatomy, medical terminology, and physiology. Students who cannot show a high-school-level competency in math or algebra might need to take prerequisite coursework.
Although not typical, some individuals with a high school or GED diploma receive on-the-job training instead of enrolling in a phlebotomy program. Regardless of their educational background, all phlebotomists must adhere to state regulations regarding certification and continuing education.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Phlebotomist?
Most phlebotomy programs take 4-8 months to complete and involve one or two semesters. This time frame does not include earning a high school diploma (or the equivalent) and preparing for and taking the certification exam. Exact program lengths vary by school.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Phlebotomist
Is the phlebotomy test hard?
The difficulty of the phlebotomy certification exam depends mainly on the test-taker. The entire assessment comprises several components, including a written exam of about 300 questions. It also includes a practical section that tests individuals' ability to draw blood, sanitize equipment, label samples, and perform other essential tasks. Most candidates can reduce their uncertainty about the exam by becoming familiar with the written and practical sections.
Is there a lot of math in phlebotomy?
People who do not exhibit an interest or proficiency in math but still want to pursue a healthcare career might consider phlebotomy. Phlebotomist education requirements typically do not include advanced mathematics. However, some certification programs might prefer students with a 9th- or 10th-grade understanding of algebra or math. However, students training for this career must master other competencies, such as having a good eye for detail, dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and physical endurance.
Can phlebotomists give injections?
Phlebotomists do not generally give injections or deliver intravenous fluids or drugs. Instead, registered nurses (RNs) and physicians perform these duties. Phlebotomists use venipuncture to collect blood samples. They might also gather other bodily fluids for different types of tests.
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