It Takes Bloody Work: How to Become a Phlebotomist

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Published
Oct 18, 2018

Oct 18, 2018 • by Rebecca Smith

Most people don't like blood. This makes sense, right? Blood is associated with injury, wounds, cuts, and makes many people squeamish.

It's hard for these people to imagine that anyone would willingly want to have their career focused on blood and needles. Some people enjoy working with blood and want to work with it every day.

Does that sound like you? Are you comfortable around needles, medical equipment, and blood? Then you would probably make a good phlebotomist.

But what is a phlebotomist, besides someone who isn't scared of blood? Do you know how to become a phlebotomist?

Keep reading. We're going to guide you through exactly what it takes to become a phlebotomist from the traits to the training you need.

What Is Phlebotomy?

Phlebotomy is defined as the practice of drawing or taking blood from a patient for medical testing through veins or other areas. A phlebotomist, then, is the technician that performs these techniques and prepares the sample for medical testing.

What Do Phlebotomists Do?

As we mentioned earlier, phlebotomists are responsible for taking blood from patients. However, they also are expected to:

  • Make patients feel comfortable
  • Explain their actions/the procedure to be performed
  • Perform clerical duties like update records
  • Fill out forms with the correct information
  • Take blood pressure/pulse measurements
  • Prepare samples for medical testing
  • Sterilize/clean equipment
  • Follow proper protocols for sending medical samples

Each of these tasks is essential for maintaining employment as a phlebotomist: it isn't all about blood!

Traits of a Good Phlebotomist

As you can tell from the list of things phlebotomists do, it's a job that requires more than just the ability to take blood. Let's look at some of the key traits a person needs to become a phlebotomist.

Patience and Compassion. Many people find getting blood drawn to be the worst part of visiting the doctor. Needles and blood are common phobias, which means many people will be anxious or upset when they have to get blood drawn.

As a phlebotomist, you'll have to be able to make these people feel calm and comfortable with you. It might take some patience, especially if you can't understand the fear yourself.

You must be able to patiently help the patient get comfortable and create an environment where they feel safe.

Task-Oriented. Much of your work as a phlebotomist is determined by tasks. If you do well with to-do lists, specific instruction protocols, and are a task-oriented individual, you'd do well as a phlebotomist.

Dexterous Precision. Phlebotomists must insert small and thin needles into precise vein points to get blood samples. You must have steady, dexterous hands that can make precise movements in order to do this properly.

Detail-Oriented. Phlebotomists must fill out forms, label medical samples, organize samples, follow specific protocols, and more. Each of these tasks requires a great attention to detail to avoid any mix-ups or mistakes with a patient's sample and health records.

Types of Phlebotomy Workplaces

While the tasks a phlebotomist performs are pretty standard, there are a few different types of workplaces a phlebotomist can work in. They could work in a private doctor's office, in a hospital, at a sample collection center, or in a lab.

How to Become a Phlebotomist

Now that you know what things a phlebotomist does and who would make a good phlebotomist, let's dive into how you can become one.

School and Training

There are a few schooling steps you'll need to become a phlebotomist. First, you'll need to have a high school diploma (or a GED equivalent).

Once you have that, you can apply to phlebotomy programs. These require you to apply and usually have a minimum GPA requirement along with other standards (immunizations, application forms, etc).

These programs can last anywhere from one semester to a year depending on which you choose and whether you go full or part-time. You can expect to take the following classes:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Lab safety techniques
  • Phlebotomy procedures

Your phlebotomy program will also require hands-on training, including:

  • Blood drawing techniques
  • Fingerstick techniques
  • "Butterfly" blood draw technique
  • Labeling/sending of samples
  • How to use/clean lab equipment

These types of trainings are required before you become a certified phlebotomist. Learn more about training you're required to learn before entering the workforce.

Getting Certification

Once you pass and graduate from a phlebotomy program, you need to become certified in order to start working. While not all employers will require certification, many do and it will make it easier to get a job post-school.

You can become certified through any of the following organizations:

  • American Medical Technologists (AMT)
  • American Association of Medical Personnel
  • American Society of Clinical Pathologists

Certain states also require particular certification before you can work. These states include California, Louisiana, and Nevada. Be sure to check the requirements in the state you plan on working in, or else you may not be able to be employed.

Work Experience

Some workplaces will require you to have clinical work experience before they hire you. While not all workplaces are like this, it's usually true for high-level phlebotomy positions.

Re-Certification

Once you're certified, you'll need to maintain certification as time goes on. You may have to pay a fee or reapply to continue your certification each year.

Becoming a Phlebotomist: A Quick Guide

If you don't mind a bloody day at the office, and would even enjoy that, then becoming a phlebotomist is perfect for you. It's a great option for those who want to work in the medical field who don't want to or can't become a doctor or nurse. You'll get to work directly with patients, handle medical samples, and work with medical equipment.

Now that you know how to become a phlebotomist, you can get cracking on schooling. Ready to start your job search? Use our site to search for particular employers, upload your resume, and browse available jobs in your area.