Phlebotomy, from the Greek for “opening a vein,” refers to the practice of healthcare professionals taking blood samples from patients, by performing a venipuncture. That is a basic summary, but an aspiring healthcare professional may still be asking, what is a phlebotomist?

In reality, the job of the phlebotomist involves more than just obtaining blood samples. The phlebotomist must be of service to the patient, demonstrating courtesy and consideration at every turn. In addition, since many patients have a fear of needles, the phlebotomist often needs to provide a calm, caring presence to help ease their fear.

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What is Phlebotomy?

Though many nurses and physicians have training

in phlebotomy, and spend some of their early career in that area. You can even find some Allied Health professionals like certified nursing assistants who have trained for a phlebotomy certification as well as many people dedicated solely to this field. There are some general steps that phlebotomy procedures typically follow.

First, the phlebotomist has to verify the identity of the patient by checking the charts and ID, if necessary. This might sound like common sense but it does avoid possible issues later if the wrong name is applied to the sample.

The next step is part of the infection control steps to ensure the safety of the patient. The phlebotomist has to make sure the equipment is properly prepared and sterilized. Besides the equipment, they will be making sure that their own hands are clean.

After laying the patient’s arm out, they place a tourniquet above the puncture sight, cleans the puncture site with an alcohol pad, and inserts the needle. After the blood is flowing, the tourniquet is removed and they acquires the necessary samples.

Then, gauze is applied to the puncture site, sample tubes are labeled, contaminated items are disposed of, and the patient-involved part of the task is complete. The phlebotomist must then insure that samples are handled properly, following all protocol to avoid contamination and ensure accurate results.

Why are Phlebotomists Important?

The acquisition of blood samples is often a vital step in diagnosing and treating the medical issues of patients. Having blood drawn can be an uncomfortable and even scary proposition for the patient, so a friendly, skilled phlebotomist can really make a difference in comforting patients, especially children. Since blood samples are so important in making diagnoses, they truly are on the front lines of patient treatment.

How does One Become a Phlebotomist?

what is a phlebotomistNow that the questions of what is phlebotomy, and why are they so important in healthcare have been answered, the next step is learning how to train for the job. Students can train either in-class, or online, to become a phlebotomy technician. It is always important to look for accreditation from the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences when one is selecting a training program. Training typically lasts anywhere from one semester, to one full year.

Phlebotomy training is about more than simply learning a safe, comfortable method for drawing blood, although of course that is an important aspect. The student will also learn in-depth information about the protocol required to ensure that samples are not contaminated. In addition, the student will learn how to handle a variety of medical emergencies, along with information on blood and cell composition, anatomy and physiology, and laboratory safety procedures.

After finishing training, one should obtain certification by passing a recognized exam like the NHA Phlebotomy Technician Certification Exam. This will show employers that one is ready for the job, increasing job opportunities and earning potential.

Once on completes the training and passes the certification exam, they are ready to embark on a rewarding new career in the healthcare field. The phlebotomist is a vital part of the healthcare whole, keeping patients comfortable and collecting samples that can ultimately lead to life-saving information. As anyone who has had blood drawn knows, the services of a skilled, caring professional can make an otherwise uncomfortable situation much more manageable.