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How to Become a Phlebotomist

Phlebotomist: You know, that person in rubber gloves sticking a needle in your arm and sending your vialed blood off to the lab. When you encounter a good one--phlebotomists work in hospitals, doctors' offices, and clinics--you might only be left with a faint, pleasant impression of him or her. But a careless one might be horrifically memorable.

Job opportunities for phlebotomists are expected to be excellent. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates employment to grow by 16 percent between 2008 and 2018, resulting in 25,000 new jobs. Especially when factoring in retirees and others who leave the occupation, this results in many jobs to fill.

What Makes a Good Phlebotomist?

There's more to the job than sticking arms with needles, and more than making it as painless as possible. Of course knowing how to be a phlebotomist who causes minimal pain is a plus, but more important is learning how to be a phlebotomist who never spreads infection.

When drawing blood, there are risks of spreading infection to the patient, the health care facility, and yourself. Precautionary measures can prevent infection-spreading:

  • Sterile Needles/Sterile Skin: Sterilizing needles is vital to preventing infections in patients, but it's also important to sterilize the skin to be pricked. This is because germs live everywhere on the body; the trick is to not let them in.
  • Squeaky Clean Phlebotomist: Phlebotomists should wear rubber gloves, labs coats and eye protectors, wash their hands obsessively--and not drink, eat, or smoke in or near the lab area.
  • Immunized + Bandaged: Phlebotomists must be immunized against Hepatitis B and possibly other diseases. They must completely cover open cuts and wounds they have.
  • Safe Disposal: Anything that comes in contact with patient blood, including syringes and gloves, must be disposed of immediately following blood draw. Sharp objects are placed in containers designated for sharps.

What Are the Steps To Becoming a Phlebotomist?

Phlebotomists don't need a lot of training, but the training they get is important. Most have associate degrees or certificates from community/junior colleges or hospitals. Your program should teach you about the circulatory system, basic anatomy, and infection prevention. Training on blood-borne pathogens is vital for phlebotomists.

Among the greatest concerns to any health care provider dealing with blood are Hepititis B and HIV. Your training program should teach you about these infections and how to prevent spreading them.

How to Become a Great Phlebotomist

Many states don't require phlebotomists to be certified, but certification might improve your job prospects. Certification for phlebotomists is available through the following:

  • Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology
  • The American Medical Technologists
  • The National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel
  • The Board of Registry of the American Association of Bioanalysts

Those with multiple certifications might be more likely considered for supervisory roles, which tend to pay more. According to the BLS, 2009 median hourly wages for phlebotomists were $12.50 in hospitals and clinics and $13 in doctors' offices.