Are all schools the same?
No. The first difference you may notice is the variance in length. While some Phlebotomy courses are short, others may be much longer. You will find several types of Phlebotomy training available, from online courses to an Associate’s degree. Typically, the higher the education, the higher the resulting pay scale. This is due to the extensive curriculum and training that is received from degreed programs, while courses tend to focus on the main area of study. The cost of courses can be up to one-tenth the cost of a degree.
One of the most important factors you should consider in choosing where you will receive your training is accreditation. Schools that are accredited follow a prescribed curriculum specifically designed to give you the proper tools, the skills and knowledge, you will need. Accreditation provides the standardization among schools and the training that they provide. This simply means you will receive the best training, in the areas you need, to become a successful Phlebotomist. Non accredited schools do not follow this curriculum.
I have never been around sick people before. Could I still become a Phlebotomist?
If you are particularly squeamish about the sight of blood, this career will not be right for you. But if you have not been around a healthcare facility before, or been exposed to injured or ill patients, you can certainly enjoy a career as a Phlebotomist. Once you have made the decision to become a Phlebotomist, the next step it to choose where you would like to go to school. During your training, along with anatomy, you will learn about blood collection techniques. You will also study the legal aspects of drawing blood. Once you have successfully completed your training, you may even continue your training through an externship at a healthcare facility. This externship will further expose you to blood, fluids, hospital or nursing home environments, and their practices. Before becoming certified, you will have ample training that will allow you to become comfortable around blood.
I’m nervous about my first blood draw. What if I forget what to do?
Your first blood draw will not be on a patient. You will begin to learn the techniques of Phlebotomy on a model. This model, provided by the school you are attending, has been molded to simulate a hand or arm, and has skin, veins, and a pliable ‘feel’ very similar to a human arm or hand.
During your coursework, you will begin to work with this model to determine proper angles, techniques and vein locations. Frequently, students who are training to become Phlebotomists will work together, practicing and perfecting the proper techniques.
What if I am not able to obtain blood from a patient? Do I keep trying?
No. Once you have attempted to draw blood from the patient two times, it is time to get another Phlebotomist or nurse to draw the blood. While you may feel a bit defeated, please understand that even the most experienced Phlebotomist or nurse can have difficulty drawing blood from a patient. Because Phlebotomists draw blood from patients who are typically not feeling well, these patients’ veins can sometimes be affected by their illness or disease.
Certain factors may contribute to a ‘difficult’ blood draw. If a patient is dehydrated, sometimes the blood draw can become difficult because their veins can ‘roll.’ This means the vein, rather than being stable, may roll or move. Veins cannot be held down, or pinned. This can cause the Phlebotomist to miss the vein, resulting in a failed blood draw. Sometimes with ‘rolling’ veins, the Phlebotomist can slightly adjust the needle and obtain blood. Medication can also affect a patient’s veins, as well as their blood pressure. If a patient has been in the hospital or nursing home facility for a long period of time, repeated blood draws can result in scarring which can make a blood draw difficult.
There are several sites, or areas, where a blood draw can be performed. A trained Phlebotomist examines each site before beginning the blood draw to determine which site may be best. However, because so many factors can determine a successful blood draw, a failed blood draw is not considered a detriment. Merely, another trained Phlebotomist or nurse attempts to draw blood from the patient. Should these blood draws fail as well, usually the Physician is notified. Depending on the facility, at this time a specialist such as an anesthesiologist may be called in, or the Physician themselves may draw the blood.
Does drawing blood hurt people?
Typically, no. During your Phlebotomy training, as well as externship, you will learn techniques and practices that ensure the blood draw will cause as little discomfort as possible. For a patient who has never had their blood drawn before, frequently it is the actual procedure itself that may cause some unease, not any pain caused by the procedure.
Using a calm voice and exhibiting a caring bedside manner will relax the patient. By explaining what you are doing, rather than simply doing it, you allow the patient to feel they are in control. The more at ease you are able to place the patient in, the less the blood draw will actually hurt. Patients who are nervous tend to tense up their muscles, which could cause a bit more discomfort.
Do Phlebotomists order the tests for the patients?
No. Only physicians and diagnosticians order the blood tests that will be run on a particular patient. The Phlebotomist’s role is to draw the amount of blood necessary to complete the test. Some of the tests that are ordered by the physician or diagnostician may require an additive to be placed with the blood. These additives are included in the vacuum tubes that are part of the Phlebotomists’ supplies.
Does the Phlebotomist test the blood in the laboratory?
No. Once the blood has been drawn from the Phlebotomist and placed in the proper vacuum tubes, it will be promptly transported to the laboratory. In the laboratory, there are many machines, microscopes and refrigerators that are dedicated to the storing and testing of blood and other fluids such as urine and sputum.
Laboratory technicians and Technologist work in the laboratory. They have been trained to run the tests ordered by the doctor. Once the tests have been completed, the results are printed and delivered to the department that has ordered the tests. In a particularly urgent, or stat, test any highly abnormal test results are called over the department that has ordered the test.
If I have successfully passed my courses, am I automatically certified now?
No. Once you have completed your training, there are a few additional steps you must take to obtain state certification. There are many vocational schools, courses and degrees that not only train you but add the state certification into the coursework. This allows you to be fully educated and prepared to take the state certification test upon completion of schooling. You can then be on your way to an exciting career as a Phlebotomist.
Do I have to be state certified to work as a Phlebotomist?
No. There are no laws that prohibit you from working as a Phlebotomist if you are not state certified. Obtaining state certification increases your value to an employer. It provides them the knowledge that you have received complete training, and are highly skilled as a Phlebotomist, as evident in your education and certification. State certification may also result in obtaining a higher pay rate than that of a non-certified Phlebotomist.