Phlebotomist

Overview

What is a phlebotomist?

A phlebotomist is a medical professional who is trained to perform blood draws on children and adults. They collect and prepare blood for testing so it can be analyzed in a medical laboratory. They also collect blood for donation and perform blood transfusions.

Phlebotomists are trained to collect blood samples through:

  • Venipuncture (a puncture in your vein).
  • Finger pricks, such as for blood sugar tests or to determine blood type.
  • Heel pricks, which are specifically for infants.

Blood tests are used to screen for, diagnose and monitor health conditions. They’re very common and an essential part of medical testing.

While other medical professionals, such as nurses, are also trained to draw blood, this is the main part of a phlebotomist’s job.

“Phlebotomy” comes from the Greek words “phleb-” and “-tomia,” which mean “vein” and “cutting,” respectively.

What does a phlebotomist do?

A phlebotomist’s main job is to collect blood samples in response to orders issued by healthcare providers or for donation. More specifically, their job includes:

  • Preparing people for blood draws, which may involve putting someone at ease if they’re anxious or have a fear of needles.
  • Verifying the identity of the person before performing the blood draw and ensuring proper labeling of collection vials.
  • Ensuring that all equipment is properly sanitized before collecting blood.
  • Performing blood draws and transfusions for people.
  • Assisting people who experience adverse reactions after a blood draw or transfusion.
  • Maintaining, tracking and storing the blood samples for delivery to testing laboratories or blood banks.
  • Assisting physicians and other medical professionals.
  • Organizing and maintaining blood draw supplies.

What can I expect when getting my blood drawn by a phlebotomist?

If you have to get your blood drawn for a medical test or are donating blood, you can expect the following:

  • The phlebotomist will introduce themselves to you and confirm your identity.
  • The phlebotomist will put on gloves and apply a tourniquet (a stretchy band) to your upper arm to slow blood flow.
  • They’ll disinfect the area with an alcohol swab and identify which vein they’re going to draw from.
  • The phlebotomist will then insert a needle into your vein and attach a vial to the needle to collect a blood sample. They may collect just one vial or multiple depending on which tests your healthcare provider ordered.
  • After they’ve collected enough blood, they’ll release the tourniquet and then remove the needle.
  • They’ll dispose of the needle and apply pressure with a cotton ball to the affected area to stop the bleeding.
  • They’ll apply a bandage to the area, and you’ll be ready to go home.

Where do phlebotomists work?

Phlebotomists work in a variety of places, including:

  • Clinical laboratories.
  • Hospitals.
  • Community health centers.
  • Assisted living facilities and nursing homes.
  • Doctor’s offices.
  • Blood donation centers and blood drives.

They’re usually supervised by a clinical laboratory technologist or other medical professionals.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does someone become a phlebotomist?

The requirements to become a phlebotomist vary from state to state in the U.S., but in most cases, you need certification from a completed phlebotomy program.

Phlebotomy programs are normally offered at technical and vocational schools and community colleges. They usually take less than a year to complete.

Specific steps to becoming a phlebotomist include:

  • Graduating high school or earning a GED.
  • Applying to and being accepted by an accredited phlebotomy program.
  • Completing a phlebotomy program, which involves classwork and hands-on training. The practical training will provide a minimum of 40 hours of experience.
  • Earning a certificate from a phlebotomy program.
  • Taking a certification exam. Most phlebotomists are certified by one of seven certifying agencies. The exam itself usually consists of up to 300 questions and includes both a written and practical section. You’ll be required to show your ability to draw blood, label samples, sanitize equipment and more.

There are three levels of certification that a phlebotomy program can offer, including:

  • Limited Phlebotomy Technician (LPT): Certified to perform skin puncture blood collection.
  • Certified Phlebotomy Technician I (CPT I): Certified to perform skin puncture and venipuncture blood collection.
  • Certified Phlebotomy Technician II (CPT II): Certified to perform skin puncture, venipuncture and arterial (artery) puncture blood collection.

How many years does it take to become a phlebotomist?

Accredited phlebotomy programs usually take a year or less to complete.

What is the average salary of a phlebotomist?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a phlebotomist in the United States in 2021 was $37,380 per year. But it can be more or less depending on where you work and how many hours you work in a week.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Needing to get bloodwork done can be scary or stressful for some. Know that the phlebotomist drawing your blood has specialized training and skills to make sure the process is as safe and comfortable as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask your phlebotomist questions. They’re available to help you feel more comfortable and confident about your blood draw.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/02/2022.

References

  • ExploreHealthCareers.org. Phlebotomist. (https://explorehealthcareers.org/career/allied-health-professions/phlebotomist/) Accessed 8/2/2022.
  • Nurse.org. 5 Steps to Becoming a Phlebotomist. (https://nurse.org/healthcare/how-to-become-phlebotomist/) Accessed 8/2/2022.
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Phlebotomists. (https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/phlebotomists.htm) Accessed 8/2/2022.

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