Phlebotomy is emerging as a promising career opportunity for health services professionals in USA as it is relatively simple to learn and comes with attractive pay packages and chances of progression into medical career. It pays about US $ 35,000 a year and the certification can be obtained through an exam that costs only $ 55. Once combined with other medical skills like sonography or clinical evaluations, phlebotomy can translate into the most attractive medical job.
Phlebotomy definition can be best understood by learning the meaning of the words that form this term. Phlebotomy is derived from ‘phlebo’ and ‘tomy’, two Greek words that mean ‘blood vessel’ and ‘making incision’ respectively. So the phlebotomy means the procedure for drawing blood samples and it is commonly referred to as venipuncture procedure. A person who performs phlebotomy is called phlebotomist, though in most of the countries, doctors and nurses routinely draw blood samples without calling themselves to be phlebotomists.
Interestingly, phlebotomy has been in practice since ages. In ancient times, medical experts used leaches to draw blood from the body as it was considered to be an effective way of removing toxins from human body.
What Does a Phlebotomist Do?
The hospital or health care institute that you join after phlebotomy training and certification mostly lays down the job description in contract which is essentially related to drawing blood samples but it may also include general medical assistance and patient care. Generally, the responsibilities related to venipuncture procedure include:-
1. Organizing of all necessary equipment like needles, injections, tubes, bandages and containers before drawing the sample.
2. Greeting the patient, making them comfortable, verifying and noting down their particulars and may even be required to take vital signs before and after drawing of blood sample
3. Searching for the vein to draw the sample and disinfecting the area before drawing blood
4. Drawing the blood sample, collecting into bag or container, labeling it and treating the punctured area on patient’s body
How to Become a Phlebotomist?
Phlebotomy can be taken up as your entry into the world of medical and health care professionals. Phlebotomy training is simple, cheap and even available online. Nearly all the states in USA have medical institutes offering phlebotomist training and students have the option to apply for phlebotomy certification online. While you can always find a phlebotomy school in your vicinity, you also have the option to select a program that offers phlebotomy classes in the evening so that you can continue with your day job simultaneously. Once you have completed your training, you will be required to undergo a certification exam under American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians (ASPT).
Pre-requisites for Aspiring Phlebotomist
If the sight of blood makes you sick, stop reading any further because that is essentially your daily job if you become a phlebotomist. Besides this mental ability, there are few essential requirements that you have to fulfill before enrolling into any phlebotomy course. They include:-
1. A strong set of communication skills with an emphatic and convincing attitude towards patients fears. You must be able to develop trust with the patients through kindness and courtesy even once you are not getting a payback from them.
2. Good physical health with a fair degree of hand-eye coordination as you will be handling sharp instruments for drawing blood samples. Off course, good vision in both eyes is an elementary requirement in healthcare, particularly phlebotomy.
3. Education requirement for most of the phlebotomy courses is a high school certificate but in case you are choosing a phlebotomy course in some university, the requirements might increase, depending upon the diploma/certification being offered.
The prospects of a handsome salary affect the choice of profession and phlebotomist’s salary is reasonable, depending upon the level of qualification necessary for this job. How much does a phlebotomist make ?A certified phlebotomist working in a hospital or clinic in USA makes about $12.50 per hour according to a 2012 survey. The same job pays to about $13 in case you are employed in a laboratory.
The phlebotomy pay scales for starters are about $24,000 to $36,000 per year but once a person gains experience, the salary may go as high as $75,000 or even more. Following factors affect as to how much do phlebotomist make:-
1. The place of employment is the major factor affecting salary as larger the hospital, greater would be the pay. Individuals employed in laboratories also make more than smaller clinics in USA.
2. Demand of a particular skill in a state or area defines the pay package to a large extent. East Coast in USA has relatively higher pay scales for phlebotomists as compared to the West Coast.
3. Quantum of work is also a factor in the phlebotomist’s salary. In case he is required to draw numerous samples because of his employment in emergency room or laboratory, the pay would be higher.
4. The pay package increases with experience and individuals at superior levels make much more than the junior interns.
Career as a Phlebotomist – Avenues for Progress
Phlebotomy can be taken up as an entry into the healthcare field and it pays reasonably well depending upon the experience and skills. The field has not been saturated so far and there is a consistent increase in requirement of phlebotomists worldwide, particularly in USA. However, one must understand phlebotomy to be a mere stepping stone because the chances of progress as a phlebotomist are very less and you need to obtain other qualifications like sonography and nursing. Improving your qualifications with time is the key to success in healthcare.
The emphasis of phlebotomy training offered by most of the phlebotomy schools remains on completing the minimum required number of venipuncture required to make a candidate eligible for phlebotomy certification. Accordingly the training is distributed between certain number of hours of classroom followed by laboratory training and working in a clinic or hospital for a fixed number of hours.
The training usually starts with few basics about first aid and CPR because a phlebotomist must be able to handle and assist in any life-saving activity at the clinic. In addition, handling of sharp equipment may even put the patents at risk in a stressful environment and the phlebotomist must be able to provide first aid.
Gradually, the classroom training moves onto the physiology and anatomy subjects with focus on blood sampling, labeling and storage practices in accordance with international protocols. While theoretical portion may be covered through an online training manual also, the students have to get into field for learning and mastering the art of venipuncture. For this purpose, the phlebotomy schools are usually affiliated with any clinic or local hospital that affords an opportunity for giving hands-on experience to the students.
Cost of a Phlebotomy Training Course
The cost of a course in phlebotomy varies from phlebotomy schools to others, and it is also dependent on the certification provided by the school. The duration of the course and the distribution of training between theory and laboratory work are also the factors that influence its cost. For example, a two day phlebotomy course offered by North Florida Medical Institute costs only $350 while in the same state, Fortis College offers an 8 month training course costing $15,575. However, on completion of this costly training regime, students get two nationally recognized certifications.
Choosing a Phlebotomy Training Course
With a vast range of phlebotomy courses to choose from, people find it difficult to enroll in a particular course as per their requirements. Following factors affect the choice of a particular phlebotomy course:-
1. The intended utility of the course takes precedence as it determines the degree of training and certification desired by the aspiring phlebotomist. For a healthcare professional who needs only minimal experience in phlebotomy because he or she intends to make a career in other field of medical services, short courses are the best suited. On the contrary, a person wanting to excel in phlebotomy would like to get the highest possible certification in phlebotomy and accordingly choose a course.
2. Cost of the training course is the next important factor to consider. A reputed institute offers a costlier program even with a shorter duration while relatively less popular schools offer affordable degree program. The duration of the course and actual distribution of the course curriculum between theoretical and clinical aspects also influence the cost.
3. The duration of the course affects the cost as well as choice for a particular certification program. Few people like short, intensive training regime while many would like a slower tempo and relatively longer duration courses.
4. The actual timings of study also affect the choice of courses as professionals prefer to take evening classes without affecting their daily routine while for a fresh student, the timings may not be that important.
The job of phlebotomists is governed by legislation and states like California have very strict certification procedures for phlebotomists. Accordingly, you have to choose a certification program that is accredited by medical service providers in your area. American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians is a nationwide, respected organization that provides certification to the aspiring phlebotomists after they pass the certification exam. The organization is recognized by all healthcare providers and a certification from this prestigious forum increases your chances of getting hired manifolds.
American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians has accredited numerous schools and since its inception, it has tested and certified over 100,000 phlebotomists. In order to be eligible for the test, you must undergo a course that offers required number of hours in classroom training followed by completing the required number of venipuncture at a healthcare facility. In addition, you have to be a member of ASPT to be eligible for sitting in exam. While the cost of test is $55, you may have to pay additional membership fee before taking the exam.
National Association of Phlebotomy Technicians also offers a competitive certification program after 30 hours of classroom training and requisite number of blood samples. National Health care Association also provides phlebotomy certification exam for $105.
Phlebotomy Practice Test before the Certification Exam
Before you go out and sit in the certification exam held under any of the certification organization, it is better to get a feel of the exam through undergoing a practice test. These tests are available online also and you can take them for a very small cost or even free too. Having gone through these theoretical tests increases your confidence, make you familiar with the question setting and increase your chances of doing well in the actual certification test.
So if you are not sickened by the sight of blood, have attained your high school certificate and are willing to become a healthcare professional, phlebotomy is your stepping stone into this field. Join a phlebotomy training school near you today, complete the training, qualify the certification process and start earning handsomely as a certified phlebotomist today.