Phlebotomy is the act of collecting blood either for testing or transfusion. It is a skill employed by physicians and many professionals in allied health fields, including nurses, medical assistants, and clinical laboratory scientists. Health care is a rapidly expanding industry, and a new professional, the certified phlebotomist, helps to reduce the workload of doctors and nurses by focusing exclusively on blood collection, particularly in hospitals and blood drives.
Phlebotomists collect blood primarily by performing venipuncture and, for collection of minute quantities of blood, fingersticks. Blood may be collected from infants by means of a heel stick or from scalp veins with a butterfly needle. They do not normally collect arterial blood samples, however Phlebotomist may be trained in some hospitals to draw from Arterial Lines.
Phlebotomists do not administer intramuscular or subcutaneous injections. These tasks must be performed by doctors or nurses. In some states, depending on state law, Phlebotomists are authorized to administer Heparin or Saline flushes. This often includes more training and is widely used in some states where Phlebotomist are hired as Dialysis Technicians. Phlebotomists sometimes perform other tasks as required such as urine collection and testing. In the United States, a phlebotomist is paid competitively.
Training and certification
Most countries are working towards more standardized training including certification.
- In the UK, no special certification is required, only training, often on the job.
- In New Zealand, phlebotomists must have a high school degree and First Aid Certificate, with all other skills being taught on the job.
- Australian phlebotomists are heading towards a minimum requirement of Cert III in Phlebotomy. This must be from a nationally accrediated course. Employers already are looking for this on applicants resumes.
Further on the job training is then supplied by employers. Annual Competencies/Assessments are being carried out by some leading Pathology services to set a benchmark for Phlebotomists.
- In the United States, requirements vary by state. Currently California is the only state to require certification.
Phlebotomy used to be a skill picked up on the job, but today, most phlebotomists in the United States train approximately four months in a career center or trade school or one year in a community college. This training includes a clinical rotation in a hospital. They are usually required to be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The American Heart Association the American Red Cross and the Medic First Aid Organization conduct day-long classes in CPR for health professionals for a small fee. In addition to CPR, phlebotomists study anatomy, how to interact with patients, legal aspects of blood collection, Universal and Standard Precautions, and blood collection techniques. A prospective phlebotomist should have a high school diploma or GED and be able to follow simple directions and procedures and handle blood and other bodily fluids without discomfort.
Certification and Licensing
Phlebotomists can be certified upon examination by a number of agencies, including the American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP), the American Medical Technologists (AMT), and the American Association of Medical Personnel (AAMP). The ASCP has the most stringent certification requirements. In the United States, phlebotomists are not required to be certified except in California, although almost all are.
The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) offers a national certification for Phlebotomy Technician (CPT), as well as certificates for Clinical Medical Assistants (CCMA), and Patient Care Technicians (CPCT). The CPT and CCMA certifications include the EKG Technician certification (CET) and Phlebotomy Technician certification in one general certification.
The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) certification is also available to individuals that have 2+ years hands on experience as a home study exam; however is not available in the state of California. A person can become certified in the state of California with the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) certification; however they must take the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) at an approved testing site set forth by the state of California.