Phlebotomists draw blood for tests, transfusions, research, or blood donations. Some of them explain their work to patients and provide assistance if patients have adverse reactions after their blood is drawn.

Duties

Phlebotomists typically do the following:

  • Draw blood from patients and blood donors
  • Talk with patients and donors so they are less nervous about having their blood drawn
  • Verify a patient or donor’s identity to ensure proper labeling
  • Label the drawn blood for testing or processing
  • Enter patient information into an onsite database
  • Assemble and maintain medical instruments such as needles, test tubes, and blood vials

Phlebotomists primarily draw blood, which is then used for different kinds of medical laboratory testing. In medical and diagnostic laboratories, patient interaction is often only with the phlebotomist. Because all blood samples look the same, phlebotomists must identify and label the sample they have drawn and enter it into a database. Some phlebotomists draw blood for other purposes, such as at blood drives where people donate blood. In order to avoid causing infection or other complications, phlebotomists must keep their work area and instruments clean and sanitary.

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Work Environment

Phlebotomists held about 101,300 jobs in 2012.

Phlebotomists work mainly in hospitals, medical and diagnostic laboratories, blood donor centers, and doctor’s offices.

The industries that employed the most phlebotomists in 2012 were as follows:

General medical and surgical
hospitals; state, local, and private
40%
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 26
Other ambulatory health care services 18
Offices of physicians 9

Work Schedules

Most phlebotomists work full time. Some phlebotomists, particularly those who work in hospitals and labs, are expected to work on nights, weekends, and holidays.

Education and Training

Phlebotomists typically enter the occupation with a postsecondary nondegree award from a phlebotomy program.

Education

Phlebotomists typically enter the occupation with a postsecondary non-degree award from a phlebotomy program. Programs for phlebotomy are available from community colleges, vocational schools, or technical schools. These programs usually take less than 1 year to complete and lead to a certificate or diploma. Programs have classroom and laboratory portions and include instruction in anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology.

Some phlebotomists may enter the occupation with a high school diploma and are trained to be a phlebotomist on the job.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Almost all employers prefer to hire phlebotomists who have earned professional certification.

Several organizations offer certifications for phlebotomists. The National Center for Competency Testing, the American Society for Clinical Pathology, and the American Medical Technologists (AMT) offer Phlebotomy Technician certifications.

Certification candidates typically need some classroom education, as well as some clinical experience. Certification testing usually includes an exam and may include practical components, such as drawing blood. Requirements vary by certifying organization. Phlebotomists must be certified in California, Louisiana, and Nevada.

Training

Phlebotomists usually get on-the-job training in their workplace to learn specific procedures on how their employers collect and track blood.

Those with just a high school diploma get some on-the-job training in how to be a phlebotomist.

Personality and Interests

Phlebotomists typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a phlebotomist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Phlebotomists should also possess the following specific qualities:

Compassion. Some patients or clients are afraid of having their blood drawn, so phlebotomists should show care when they perform their duties.

Detail oriented. Phlebotomists must draw the correct vials of blood for the tests ordered, track vials of blood, and enter data into a database. Attention to detail is necessary; otherwise, the specimens may be misplaced or lost, or a patient may be injured.

Dexterity. Phlebotomists work with their hands, and they must be able to use their equipment efficiently and properly.

Hand-eye coordination. Phlebotomists draw blood from many patients, and they must perform their duties on the first attempt, or their patients will experience discomfort.

Pay

The median annual wage for phlebotomists was $29,730 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,340, and the top 10 percent earned more than $42,600.

Most phlebotomists work full time. Some phlebotomists, particularly those who work in hospitals and labs, are expected to work on nights, weekends, and holidays.

Job Outlook

Employment of phlebotomists is projected to grow 27 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Hospitals, diagnostic laboratories, blood donor centers, and other locations will need phlebotomists to perform blood work.

Blood analysis remains an essential function in medical laboratories and hospitals. Demand for phlebotomists will remain high as doctors and other healthcare professionals require blood work for analysis and diagnoses.

However, federal health legislation will expand the number of patients who have access to health insurance, increasing patient access to medical care. As hospitals and medical laboratories evaluate their staffing needs, phlebotomists may be replaced by other more skilled healthcare workers.

Job Prospects

Job prospects are best for phlebotomists who receive certification from one of several reputable organizations.

For More Information

For more information about phlebotomy and how to receive a phlebotomy certificate, visit

Center for Phlebotomy Education

American Medical Technologists (AMT)

National Health Career Association

FAQ

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The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. We recommend the Career Personality Profiler assessment ($29), the Holland Code assessment ($19), or the Photo Career Quiz (free).