Do you have a desire to help people? Do you want to work in the company of doctors and nurses? Perhaps you think you do not have not the time or money to invest in a very long and costly education. Fortunately, the field of phlebotomy presents an ideal opportunity for you to pursue and realize your goals. The training in this medical field is not expensive, and the entire process along with valid certification can be completed in as little as a few months. This site will detail all the information you need to know about phlebotomy training and certification.
What is Phlebotomy?
Essentially, phlebotomy is the practice of drawing blood from the veins of a person or animal. This may be done for the purpose of tests, research, blood donations or transfusions. As you may imagine, this skill is one of the most central requirements in modern medicine and healthcare, and it would be hard to find a person who has not found himself in the care of a phlebotomist at some stage or the other.
The first thing you should know is that the only basic requirement of a phlebotomy training course is a high school diploma or GED certification. Often, students go in for phlebotomy training straight out of high school, and then continue their education while working as phlebotomists. However, before you consider enrolling for a training course, it is important you check the rules and regulations governing this medical skill in your local region. Most states in the US clearly lay out certain training, certification and licensing requirements for phlebotomists. For instance, your state may not license you if you have an adult criminal record, or it may only recognize certification from one particular institution.
Planning your Education
Once you know your local region’s phlebotomy regulations, you can start planning your education. In order to get the requisite certification, you will need to complete a certain number of classroom as well as actual training/internship hours. However, there is a lot of flexibility in the exact form and length of time that education takes. If you are already working or have difficult family constraints, you could opt for a part-time course at a vocational or job training school. The other option is to join a full-time college program, which may also equip you for other allied nursing skills. Most regions have several schools to choose from, and it is likely that your budget will have a bearing on your final choice.
As far as phlebotomy certification is concerned, there are three widely recognized agencies in the US – the Association of Phlebotomy Technicians (APT), the National Phlebotomy Association (NPA), and the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). Your choice of either of these should depend on their recognition and reputations in your state. Bear in mind that they all have different requirements for certification, so it is important to study these before you enroll for a course.
The Association of Phlebotomy Technicians requires candidates to have completed an approved phlebotomy training program. Besides this, students must have a membership with the APT, as well as 5 successful skin punctures and 100 venipunctures under their belt. The NPA’s requirements are somewhat different. They require 160 classroom hours as well as a practical internship in a clinic. Additionally, students must be fully qualified in venipuncture techniques. Finally, the ASCP asks for a high school diploma or GED, 40 classroom hours, 120 internship training hours and 100 successful unaided blood collections. As you can see, your choice of program and internship will depend largely on the certification you hope to get.
Career Prospects and Advantages
Since phlebotomy is a central requirement in any hospital or clinic, a qualified phlebotomist should be able to find several jobs. Apart from clinics and hospitals, blood banks, laboratories and doctors’ offices typically require phlebotomists. It is important to remember, though, that a phlebotomist does not command a very high pay. Salaries in the US may typically range between $24,000 – $36,000 per annum, depending on the location. Doctors and qualified nurses get paid a lot more.
Even though the pay is not the highest, it would be wrong to suggest that the job of a phlebotomist does not have its advantages. To start with, training and certification in this field is a lot easier, cheaper and faster than a nursing course or medical degree. Within months you could find yourself in a hospital environment, earning a decent salary. Also, since it is a relatively easy job to perform, phlebotomy gives you the opportunity to continue your education while you earn a living. This is a great option for people who have to support a family while they study, or pay their way through school.
Oftentimes, students who intend to go to medical school or do a nursing course qualify themselves as phlebotomists first. This allows them to test the waters before making their decision to enter the medical field. It also gives them crucial experience in a hospital environment while they study. Besides, the advantage of being able to pay their bills simultaneously is a welcome break.
Tips to Help Maximize your Salary
Like in any other career, there are ways to maximize your chances of finding relatively high paying phlebotomist jobs. First of all, larger institutions such as private medical companies, government health agencies and hospitals tend to pay more. They also allow more room to negotiate a salary. Blood banks are also known to pay a higher salary, since their entire enterprise runs on a phlebotomist’s skill. However, in order to work for a blood bank, you may need to qualify yourself as a donor phlebotomy technician first. Check with your school and local regulatory authorities to find out how you may do this.
Apart from your pay package, you should also consider the other perks and benefits a particular employer is offering you. As a full-time phlebotomist, you are entitled to health care, bonus, insurance, sick leaves, paid time off, pension, educational reimbursements and tax benefits. Each of these adds value over and above your salary.
Before you accept any job, make sure you do thorough research on the average salary for phlebotomists in your area. The last thing you would want is to find yourself shortchanged. You could get salary information from local professional associations, experienced phlebotomists in your neighborhood, as well as your school. Finally, make sure you apply at several places and compare the advantages carefully, before settling for any offer. Phlebotomists are in high demand in most regions and you are likely to land several offers.
Ultimately, there is no escaping from the fact that beyond a point you will find it hard to increase your income as a phlebotomist. In the long-run you should look to qualify yourself as a professional nurse or doctor, if you intend to stay in the medical field.
The Relation between Nursing and Phlebotomy
People often find themselves confused about whether nursing and phlebotomy are distinct areas of specialization. This is because it is not uncommon to see nurses in a hospital or clinic performing phlebotomy. You too may ask that if nurses can do the job, what does a phlebotomist do?
To begin with, it is important to accept that since phlebotomy is one of the several skills involved in nursing, a nurse is qualified to draw blood from patients and initiate transfusion and donation procedures. However, a nurse may lack specialized knowledge of all the venipuncture and phlebotomy techniques and procedures available. In that sense, a phlebotomist is a more reliable and knowledgeable expert in blood collection.
In its scope and complexity, nursing is a much broader and more challenging field. Just to reiterate, phlebotomists are only qualified for one nursing task – drawing blood from patients. In terms of educational requirements too, nurses need to go through a much harder process before they can begin practicing. A 2-4 year education is mandatory, and over the course of this time, nurses learn a range of different hospital and medical procedures. At the end of the day, they are expected to provide complete medical care to a patient, and initiate emergency medical procedures if required. A phlebotomist is not equipped to do any of this.
The Rationale for Classroom Learning
A common question several people have is that if phlebotomy is as basic as blood removal and collection, why does it require a specialized course of classroom study? This is because it is hard to trust someone to draw blood correctly, without the right knowledge of the human anatomy and the venous system. Also, phlebotomy involves the use of medical equipment and certain careful medical procedures. It is important for students to understand the equipment, and learn what necessitates common phlebotomy procedures. Students also need to be familiar with the medical jargon involved. Ultimately, like with any other medical skill, this job requires extreme precision and there is no room for error.
The Scope of Learning
A typical phlebotomy course involves sessions on the human anatomy; how to minimize and control risks of infection; preparing the patient for phlebotomy; administering care after the procedure; venipuncture procedures; and understanding the equipment and terminology involved. Students are also carefully guided on how to complete the procedure and handle blood samples and specimens. By the time the course is over, students should be able to perform this job efficiently, and without risking the health and wellbeing of anyone concerned. Keep in mind that every course leaves a lot of room for live clinical practice/training hours, and without this practical experience, no student will receive their diploma.
Most courses offer at least 40 hours of clinical practice. During this time, phlebotomy students work under the guidance of a phlebotomist and a licensed medical professional. This is the time when students actually practice the skills they are learning in a live environment. These 40 hours are delivered in a progression. For the first 8-10 hours students work as assistants to a licensed phlebotomist, and they do not actually withdraw any blood from the patients. Rather, they greet patients, prepare the equipment and handle the samples. During the second half of their practical training, students are expected to perform the complete job unassisted, watched on by a licensed professional. If students feel they need more time to acquire this skill, most courses and clinics are happy to accommodate such requests.
After you are qualified and certified as a phlebotomist, you are free to practice at any medical establishment. However, to keep yourself at the top of your career line, it is important to maintain your membership with one or more of the professional associations mentioned earlier. The National Phlebotomy Association and American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians are especially relevant memberships for American phlebotomists. Bear in mind that these associations will require you to undergo at least 6 hours of learning annually to stay current with the latest technologies and procedures in the field. Ultimately, you even have the option of taking on a wider role at these associations or qualifying yourself as a phlebotomy instructor.
By now, this article should have given you all the information you need regarding the education and practice of phlebotomy. You should have very exact answers to the questions: what is a phlebotomist, how do you become one and what can you expect from this profession. Most people underestimate the role and skill of a phlebotomist. However, like any other medical profession, it requires precision, care, the ability to work in pressure, and a warm personality.