What is a phlebotomist, and how can you become one?
Phlebotomists draw blood from patients and blood donors. They can work in a range of settings, including blood donation centers, hospitals, and physician’s offices.
These healthcare professionals are in high demand. In the U.S., there are currently 135,500 phlebotomists. Over the next 10 years, that number is expected to increase by 10%, which is a faster-than-average job growth rate.
To work as a phlebotomist, you should be comfortable with the sight of blood. You’ll also need to show excellent attention to detail and have a caring and compassionate nature.
Does this sound like the right career for you, but you’re not sure where to start? Before you can work in this role, you’ll need to meet a few requirements.
In this article, we’ll give you a rundown on how to become a phlebotomist. Plus, we’ll share a salary guide so you know how much you can earn.
What is a phlebotomist?
Phlebotomists work in the healthcare field. These medical professionals draw blood from patients for different purposes.
For example, they can draw blood for testing when doctors order blood tests to screen for illnesses or monitor health changes.
Some phlebotomists work in blood banks and collect blood from donors. Hospitals use this donated blood for life-saving blood transfusions.
Once a phlebotomist collects the blood, the have to label the vial correctly. Then, they send the blood to the laboratory for testing or to be prepared for medical use.
Phlebotomists also keep accurate computer records and double-check patient details.
In some settings, phlebotomists can collect other samples for testing, such as stool and urine.
Where do phlebotomists work?
As mentioned earlier, phlebotomists can be found in several healthcare environments. The most common workplaces are hospitals — 36% of phlebotomists work in a hospital.
Next are laboratories, where 35% of phlebotomists work, followed by physician’s offices, which employ 8% of these healthcare professionals.
Phlebotomists can also work for outpatient care centers, community centers, ambulatory healthcare services, or mobile blood drives.
Phlebotomists usually work full-time during the day. Monday to Friday is common, but some employers expect you to work weekend shifts.
How much does a phlebotomist make?
You might be wondering how much you can make with a career in phlebotomy. Your salary will vary depending on where you live and your qualifications and experience.
The average salary for a phlebotomist in the U.S. is $37,380 per year or $17.97 per hour. However, the work setting impacts the average pay.
For example, those working in outpatient care centers make $38,220 per year, on average. If they work in a hospital, their average salary drops slightly to $36,980.
Your location can also affect your paycheck. Let’s say you work in California, where phlebotomists make the most money. The average annual salary in that state is $48,070.
The salary is also competitive in New York, at $45,390. Then there’s Massachusetts, where phlebotomists have a median salary of $44,020 per year.
In Washington, the average salary is $43,770 per year, and in Rhode Island, it’s $43,010 per year.
On the other end of the scale, Alabama is one of the lowest-paying states, with an average phlebotomist salary of $32,010 per year.
How to become a phlebotomist
Want to become a phlebotomist? Here’s a step-by-step guide to starting this healthcare career:
Step 1: Get the basics
Before you start your career as a phlebotomist, you’ll need to meet some basic requirements.
First, you should have a high school diploma or the equivalent. There may also be minimum age requirements, depending on where you live. Some employers expect you to be at least 18, while others prefer candidates over 21.
Next, you should get to know more about the job. Is it right for you? Remember that you’ll be working closely with people in a healthcare environment. Are you confident talking to a wide range of people? And are you comfortable using a needle to draw blood?
If you have any healthcare or customer service experience, list it on your application. That will give you an advantage over other applicants.
Some jobs involve transporting patients or blood samples. If this is something you’re interested in, you’ll need a valid driver’s license.
Step 2: Think about education
Education requirements for becoming a phlebotomist can vary between states. In some areas, training and certification are essential.
Even if it’s not mandatory, a phlebotomy training program can help you get hired in a competitive job market. While employers may offer on-the-job training, most prefer candidates who have completed an education course.
You have a few options for completing such a course. For example, there are community colleges, vocational schools, and technical schools that offer phlebotomy programs. Make sure the school you choose is accredited.
Phlebotomy programs take around one year to complete and will give you the right foundation for the job. Topics you’ll learn about include anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology. There may also be clinical training to help improve your technical skills.
Upon successful completion of this course, you’ll be one step closer to your phlebotomy career.
Step 3: Consider a certification
A certification may not be essential in your area, but it’s recommended, as it’ll enhance your resume and verify your skills.
The certification process can vary depending on the association. For example, you may get your certification by meeting training or work experience requirements or by completing a certification exam.
Want to become a certified phlebotomist? Here are a few certification options:
The American Certification Agency for Healthcare Professionals (ACA)
The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT/MMCI)
The American Medical Certification Association (AMCA)
The National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
You’ll need to maintain your certification to work as a phlebotomist. You might have to keep up with ongoing training requirements and pay a yearly fee to remain certified.
Keep in mind that you may also need other certifications for a career in phlebotomy. For example, most employers expect you to complete a basic life support certification program.
Step 4: Look for a job
Once you complete any required certifications, you’ll be ready to start working in the healthcare industry as a phlebotomist.
You can look for phlebotomist jobs on our job board. You can also check with your local hospital or blood donor centers to see if there are any vacancies.
Before you apply, read the eligibility requirements carefully, and make sure you tick all of the boxes. Get your resume and cover letter ready, and include any education programs you’ve completed and professional certifications you’ve earned.
If your resume impresses the hiring manager, you’ll likely be asked to attend a job interview. Because this is a healthcare position, you may have multiple interviews before getting the job.
If you pass the interview process, you can expect to undergo a criminal background check. This check looks for any misdemeanors or felonies over the last seven or more years and verifies your work history. A clean drug test is another requirement.
Most employers offer additional training and supervision when you first start work.
Step 5: Keep learning
If you’re motivated and ambitious, there are opportunities in this field for career growth. For example, some phlebotomists continue their studies and eventually become nurses or physician assistants.
There may also be leadership training that skilled phlebotomists can undergo to work their way toward senior positions.
While you work, continue to upskill and grow your professional network. By connecting with others in the field, you can open up new doors. People you’ve worked with in the past may also recommend you for a job.
What skills do you need to become a phlebotomist?
While technical skills are important for a job as a phlebotomist, you’ll also need a few soft skills.
These are usually transferable from other industries. For example, if you’ve worked in food services, you’ll be used to working under pressure — a skill that can help you in any healthcare field.
So what are the top phlebotomist skills? Let’s take a look.
If you want a career in healthcare, you’ll need excellent communication skills. Because they’re responsible for blood collection, phlebotomists work closely with members of the public.
Some people are afraid of needles, and there can also be language barriers. Patients can be of different ages and may include young children and seniors.
Solid communication skills will help you speak to both patients and other healthcare professionals.
When you work with confidence and exhibit positive body language, patients will feel more comfortable about the blood collection process.
In addition to verbal communication skills, you’ll need written communication skills, as you’ll be required to label all samples clearly and maintain accurate patient records.
Attention to detail
Another top skill for phlebotomists is attention to detail. These professionals need to be detail-oriented and make sure everything they do is to a high standard.
Carelessness can lead to errors and, as a result, negative patient outcomes. You’ll need to be careful when you draw blood. The needle should be inserted correctly and in the right location. Rushing this task may cause injury to the patient.
Phlebotomists also need to double check information and read doctors’ referrals correctly.
When samples of blood are sent to diagnostic laboratories, the laboratory staff need to know what to test them for. If a phlebotomist makes a mistake with the labeling, the lab technicians might get inaccurate results.
Manual dexterity and physical fitness
Phlebotomists need manual dexterity. You’ll want to have excellent finer motor skills, such as the ability to grab, pinch, and grip.
Manual dexterity is required for a wide variety of essential tasks, such as handling needles and holding small vials. You can build these skills with practice — try strengthening your hands with finger and wrist exercises. Painting, drawing, and playing the guitar may also help.
In addition to manual dexterity, phlebotomists need to be physically fit. This role comes with long hours spent standing, bending, and stretching.
Compassion is important in this role. Some people are afraid of needles, so you’ll need to be understanding in these situations. Phlebotomists use their interpersonal skills to help patients and donors feel calm and distract them during the blood-drawing process.
Patients and donors may also have other fears. For example, a child may be anxious about having their blood taken for the first time.
Patients may feel light-headed after having blood drawn or be worried about medical conditions they may have.
Phlebotomists need to show kindness, patience, and compassion to every visitor. If someone needs more time or has to lie down, the phlebotomist should be happy to accommodate those needs.
Time management and organization
Phlebotomists need good time management and organizational skills.
Regardless of the setting, any healthcare facility can be busy. There can be multiple patients waiting for appointments during each shift.
With time management skills, phlebotomists can juggle patients efficiently and make sure the day runs smoothly.
Because these professionals work in a healthcare environment, there can be ups and downs in phlebotomy. There can even be complications, and patients may need extra time during their appointments to become comfortable enough for the blood-drawing procedure.
An organized phlebotomist knows how to deal with any challenges that are thrown their way.
Where to get a job as a phlebotomist
Once you’ve finished your phlebotomy program and received your national certification and state requirements, you can start looking for work.
Think about where you want to work before you apply. For example, would you like to work at a blood bank, or would you prefer to draw blood for testing at a hospital?
You can look for phlebotomy jobs on our job board and sign up for a free Jobcase account to make your job search easier. You can chat with others in community discussions, use our resume builder, set up job alerts, and more.
If you’re having trouble finding a position in your area, reach out to your professional network. You may have a teacher or past colleague who can refer you to an employer.
Take the first step to becoming a phlebotomist today!
Want to work as a phlebotomist? As a phlebotomy professional, you’ll be drawing blood from patients and donors — it’s a unique career for individuals who enjoy working with people and are interested in healthcare.
Before you start work, you’ll need to learn the foundations of the job. An accredited training program is recommended, followed by a phlebotomy certification. After you get hired, you can expect additional training until you’re confident working independently.
There are a few skills you’ll need to be successful in this position. The list includes communication skills, attention to detail, manual dexterity, compassion, and time management. Phlebotomists also need to be comfortable with needles and the blood-drawing procedure.
The salary for phlebotomists is competitive, and you can keep learning to open up new opportunities in the medical field.
Ready to apply? If so, you’re in luck because there are many phlebotomist jobs available across the country. You can start your search by visiting our job board. To help you through the application process, we have interview and resume tips in our resource center.
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