Growing demand for healthcare is fueling opportunities for trained phlebotomy technicians. Phlebotomists provide critical support to clinical practitioners, collecting and analyzing blood specimens. Doctors and other medical caregivers rely on blood tests to monitor and diagnose illnesses.
Phlebotomy: an overview
As a phlebotomy technician, you are the clinical laboratory expert in charge of obtaining and analyzing patient blood samples. The job involves both patient clinical care and laboratory work. The National Phlebotomy Association lists the following job requirements for phlebotomy technicians:
About half of phlebotomy technicians work in hospitals--52 percent, according to the Department of Labor. The rest work in medical and diagnostic laboratories (about 20 percent), physician offices, public health agencies, community health clinics and blood banks.
- Conduct patient interviews and obtain medical history
- Verify medical records
- Take vital signs
- Obtain blood samples through venipuncture and microcollection
- Prepare blood specimens for laboratory analysis
- Test and analyze blood samples
Phlebotomy technician training
The collection and analysis of blood samples is a sensitive process, particularly given the risks posed by infectious diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis. Phlebotomy technicians must follow strict procedures to ensure test accuracy and safety. Phlebotomy technician training programs help you learn the necessary skills for this clinical laboratory specialty.
Entering this field generally requires you to have an associate degree or certificate in phlebotomy or a related field. Some associate degree programs offer phlebotomy as part of a general degree such as medical laboratory technology or medical assisting. Courses include math and science fundamentals, computer skills and applied medical procedure training. Associate degrees take eighteen months to two years to complete, and certificate programs generally require four to six months.
Training programs are available at vocational schools, community colleges and private colleges. Look for programs accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), Commision on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools.
Professional certification for phlebotomy technicians is available through the National Phlebotomy Association, the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians and the American Phlebotomy Association. These professional associations offer continuing education and credentialing exams to help you keep your skills up to date and advance your career.
Careers in phlebotomy
Clinical medical technicians (including phlebotomists) can expect "excellent" job prospects, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Clinical laboratory workers can expect 14 percent job growth as demand for laboratory tests increases. The Department of Labor cites population growth and advances in testing technology as the driving factors in creating opportunity for lab technicians.
Salaries vary widely depending on experience, education and location. Top-paying states for clinical laboratory technicians, according to the Department of Labor, include Rhode Island, Washington, D.C., Connecticut and Delaware.
Opportunities for clinical laboratory technicians are on the rise. Training as a phlebotomy technician positions you to access this job market by developing skills critical for blood testing and diagnosis.
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