Pros and Cons of Being a Phlebotomist
Working as a phlebotomist can lead to a rewarding and in-demand career. Read on to learn about phlebotomist pros and cons and a typical workday.
- Phlebotomists are in demand, and the role offers a good entry point into healthcare.
- These professionals often work in hospitals, physicians' offices, or diagnostic labs.
- Learning the benefits and risks of being a phlebotomist can help you make a good career choice.
For people interested in a career in the healthcare field, phlebotomy offers an in-demand, entry-level opportunity. O*NET reports that phlebotomy is a rapidly growing profession, with a projected growth rate much faster than average from 2020-2030.
Phlebotomists typically work in hospitals, diagnostic laboratories, and medical offices. They draw blood from patients for lab tests and transfusions. Some also work in blood donation centers, traveling to different sites to collect blood from donors.
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Ready to start your journey?
If you are service-oriented and possess good communication skills and a steady hand, this may be the profession for you. The following analysis of the benefits and risks of being a phlebotomist may help you decide if this career is for you.
Pros of Being a Phlebotomist
Short Training Program
Depending on the school, students can complete a phlebotomy training program in about 4-8 months. Some accelerated online programs may even allow learners to complete their training in two months. You can find phlebotomy programs at community colleges, trades schools, and universities.
Programs may also offer externship opportunities, enabling students to get hands-on clinical experience with a local healthcare organization. While most states do not require certification for this role, many employers prefer candidates with this qualification. To gain certification, applicants must pass a national exam.
Because of the strong demand in the field, phlebotomists can usually find a stable and solid income. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, phlebotomists earned a median annual wage of $36,320 as of May 2020, with the top 10% of earners making more than $50,740. In addition, many of these positions offer health benefits.
Wages also vary by location and level of experience. For example, phlebotomists working in California earn the highest average pay (an annual salary of $47,230). Professionals can also find opportunities for career advancement by earning specialist certifications.
Working as a phlebotomist can allow you to find a work schedule that fits your needs. For example, some healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, feature 12-hour shifts, enabling workers to take more than two days off each week. In contrast, workers who find employment in a doctor's office can expect traditional 8-10-hour workdays.
Additionally, you may work as an independent contractor and set your own schedule. This flexibility enables phlebotomists to balance work, family, and social activities. For those who like traveling, mobile phlebotomists may find themselves in a different location every day, helping save lives by collecting blood from donors.
Variety of Career Settings
In addition to physicians' offices, phlebotomists can find roles in numerous other settings, each offering its own pace and workload expectations. Options include nursing homes, clinical laboratories, emergency clinics, outpatient facilities, and blood banks.
According to the BLS, 39% of phlebotomists work in hospitals. These professionals may work in inpatient or outpatient units and state, local, or private institutions. In these settings, phlebotomists tend to collaborate with different healthcare professionals.
According to the BLS, the healthcare industry is one of the fastest-growing fields. It is projected to add about 2.6 million new jobs from 2020-2030. Entering this field as a phlebotomist offers one of the fastest entry routes and is one of the few positions that does not require a bachelor's degree.
The BLS projects 22% job growth for phlebotomists from 2020-2030. This far exceeds the national projected growth of 8% for all occupations over this time.
Cons of Being a Phlebotomist
Risk of Needlestick Injury
Drawing blood, also known as venipuncture, requires applying a tourniquet and then puncturing a suitable vein with a needle. One study conducted at Brigham and Women's Hospital found that most phlebotomists took about 10 minutes per patient to draw their blood.
This face-paced schedule amounts to numerous collections every day. Every time these professionals draw blood, they risk sticking themselves with the needle. Phlebotomists require focused attention throughout their workday to ensure a needlestick injury does not occur. According to the American Nurses Association, phlebotomists can reduce the risk of needlestick injuries dramatically by using the proper procedures and safe needle devices.
Exposure to Bodily Fluids
Healthcare professionals order blood draws for numerous reasons, one of which is to test for diseases. Some samples may include infectious diseases that a phlebotomist can acquire if they do not follow adequate protective measures.
A few infectious microorganisms in human blood include hepatitis B and C, as well as the human immunodeficiency virus that can lead to AIDS. Safety and security measures that help prevent the spread of these pathogens include personal protective clothing and equipment, vaccinations, and using a needle shield.
Phlebotomists spend much of their day standing. They may also move quickly around emergency rooms or outpatient facilities, drawing blood to help healthcare professionals diagnose illnesses.
In a hospital, they often receive orders from numerous departments. This may require walking to different areas of the facility and transporting blood samples to the lab throughout the day. Some independent contractors may also work at several sites in one day.
Low Margin for Error
An error by a phlebotomist can result in severe consequences. Misidentifying collection samples — the most common mistake — can result in incorrect diagnoses and treatment procedures. A patient receiving the wrong blood type during a transfusion may experience a severe, potentially fatal reaction.
Phlebotomists may also collect unsuitable samples for testing due to errors in venous access or using the wrong vial to store the blood. Several other possible errors include misplaced samples, failure to cleanse the site correctly, and underfilling tubes.
Possibility of Patient Injury
While patient injuries are rare, they can occur when drawing blood. Some injuries result from choosing the wrong puncture site. In these instances, a phlebotomist may nick an artery or cause nerve damage and miss the vein altogether.
These errors may result in hematomas or a collection of blood that pools under the skin. In addition, nerve damage can produce pain and tingling in the hands, fingertips, and arms. In the case of an injury, patients may file a lawsuit against the phlebotomist and the healthcare institution.
Frequently Asked Questions About Phlebotomy
What is the hardest part of being a phlebotomist?
Phlebotomists encounter many different types of patients. For example, children terrified of needles can present extreme challenges when drawing blood. Even some adults fear needles, requiring phlebotomists to take their minds off the situation using distraction techniques and other strategies.
Some patients may also present unique physical challenges that make it difficult to draw blood. These may include rolling veins, dehydration, or small, deep veins. Additionally, standing for long periods and repetitive motions can result in physical strain.
Is being a phlebotomist a stressful job?
Stress levels in this position vary, depending on the employer and role. Phlebotomists who work in hospitals may need to deal with life and death situations. Those working in trauma centers may also experience high-stress levels.
In general, phlebotomists don't consider the actual act of drawing blood stressful, but the environment can be challenging. Professionals working in doctors' offices, diagnostic labs, and blood donor centers tend to experience less pressure.
What skills are important for phlebotomy?
One of the essential skills required for phlebotomy is attention to detail. Drawing blood entails following specific steps in an exact order every time. Careful labeling, storage, and preparation play an important part in successful blood draws.
Good hand-eye coordination and strong communication skills also help phlebotomists perform their roles successfully. Additionally, compassion and patience for those with needle phobia can ease the process and help patients feel more comfortable.
Feature Image: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images
What To Know About Being a Phlebotomist
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