Phlebotomy: Summary of How to Become a Phlebotomist

Phlebotomists draw blood samples from patients, and these samples are then used to test for and diagnose illnesses. Learn what it takes to become a phlebotomist, what kind of phlebotomist training is required, and the certifications needed.

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What is a Phlebotomist?

A phlebotomist, also called a phlebotomy technician, is a person who draws blood from patients in medical facilities, primarily to aid in the diagnosis of an illness. They can also take blood for donations, or for research and testing, and the samples they draw are then sent to laboratories, where they are analyzed. Phlebotomists are frequently required to interact with patients directly, since they must be nearby in order to perform the blood draw procedure, and keeping patients calm and relaxed is an important aspect of the job. Phlebotomists should also have an eye for precision and detail, since they are responsible for properly recording and cataloging samples, and need to have the dexterity and steadiness to accurately insert needles into veins over the course of a work day.

How to Become a Phlebotomist

While phlebotomists are occasionally trained on the job with no education required, an aspiring phlebotomist will generally need to complete a certificate or diploma program in phlebotomy. Certificate programs can be completed in under a year, while a diploma may take about a year to earn. Courses taken in such programs are likely to include:

  • Medical terminology
  • Ethics and professionalism
  • Introduction to phlebotomy
  • Human anatomy & physiology

Both certificate and diploma programs usually involve an internship, practicum, or other form of real-world experience prior to graduation. Online phlebotomy courses are occasionally offered, although even these are likely to require some sort of documented practical experience. Many such programs are designed with a particular certification in mind, and students will then have the option to take the certification exam at the end of the course.

Earning Phlebotomy Certification

Certification is heavily preferred by employers, and a few states, such as California, require that all phlebotomists be certified. There are several different providers of phlebotomy certification, each with slightly different requirements and expectations.

  • Phlebotomy Technician, PBT (ACSB) certification is offered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and requires a high school diploma and either completion of an approved phlebotomy program, a year's experience on the job, or a related certification. After meeting the eligibility requirements, an applicant must pass the certification exam. ASCP certification must be renewed every 3 years.
  • Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT) certification, offered by the National Healthcareer Association has some similar requirements and is awarded only after passing a 100-question certification exam. NHA certification is up for renewal every 2 years.
  • Registered Phlebotomy Technician (RPT) certification is another common choice and is provided by the American Medical Technologists (AMT). Applicants are required to complete a phlebotomy program that consists of 120 hours of coursework, or they must show they have 1,040 hours of on-the-job training, with at least 50 successful vein punctures and 10 capillary punctures, before being allowed to take the exam. AMT certification needs to be renewed every 3 years, and you must remain a member in good standing.

When preparing for certification exams, consider taking a free online phlebotomy course to help brush up on your knowledge. Which certification to pursue is largely personal preference, and will usually be dictated by the program you choose to enroll in.

Phlebotomist Salary and Career Info

The median annual salary for phlebotomists in 2018 was reported as $34,480 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS also projected job growth of 25% for phlebotomists over the 10 year period from 2016 to 2026, significantly faster than the national average. The demand for phlebotomists is largely driven by the extensive use of blood samples for medical testing.

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