Monday, May 4, 2009

Health Care and Phlebotomy

Millions of Americans each year have blood drawn for lab tests. Blood work, or phlebotomy, is one key indicator of what could be going on inside your body at any given time. A well trained Phlebotomist is worth their weight in gold. How many times have you been in a doctor's office or medical clinic and the attendant given the responsibility to draw blood cannot find a vein or has difficulty in getting the needle in just the right spot? Have you ever been stuck by a needle for blood to be drawn for during the same medical visit more than once, and they have to bring in someone else to do the job the right way?

According to, there are a number of allied health personnel, licensed and unlicensed health care professionals who withdraw blood by venipuncture or skin puncture pursuant to their scope of practice at work. These professionals include:
--Disease Intervention Specialists
--Medical researchers
--Nurses (RN, LPN, LVN)
--Physician assistants
--Medical technologists
--Radiologic technologist
--EMT personnel
--Military medics
--Medical assistants
--Phlebotomists (many are Certified Phlebotomy Technicians (CPT). Current training requirements for phlebotomists may vary widely from state to state and certification is not always required. However, more and more employers are requesting that their phlebotomy staff is certified, including those who have received vocational training which included venipuncture, have graduated from a phlebotomy course, or those who are currently employed in the phlebotomy field and have been certified.

Certification is optional, but highly recommended, because most employers require it according to The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), American Medical Technologists (AMT) and the American Society for Phlebotomy Technicians (ASPT) are organizations that offer national certification and testing, which awards phlebotomists the title Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT) or Registered Phlebotomy Technician (RPT). Plus, phlebotomists must recertify each year to maintain their certification. It's important to remember that every time a phlebotomist draws blood or sends out lab samples, they are creating that patient's blood history. That essential part of the patient's health profile will be in their record for a lifetime.

Phlebotomists are health care professionals who have been trained to collect patient's blood specimens by venipuncture and by microcollection techniques, according to The practice of phlebotomy, or the technique of venipuncture, generally refers to the collection of blood from a vein. Phlebotomists usually work under the supervision of nurses, medical technologists, or laboratory managers. Phlebotomists play an important role on the clinical laboratory team by collecting clinical laboratory specimens prior to the actual laboratory testing. Phlebotomists typically work in hospitals, commercial laboratories, physician's offices, blood banks, pharmaceutical firms, home health agencies, research institutions, hospices, pubic health clinics, prisons, and visit patient's homes. They deal with doctors and nurses, laboratory technicians, and support workers in various locations. Needless to say, on their rounds they will deal with both healthy and sick patients, from infants to the elderly. Since this is a hands-on profession, skills that were taught in the classroom are refined on the job. As the number of blood draws increases, the more confidence is gained, and the better the blood drawing techniques become.

It may look like just the simple act of drawing a sample of blood, but it involves so much more than that. A phlebotomist’s job includes responsibilities that go far beyond poking a needle in the patient’s hand and drawing blood for a test. While not much importance is placed on a formal education, what matters here is experience and dexterity. The longer a phlebotomist is at his job, the more skilled he becomes according to Kat Sanders via The Health Zone Blog at or . Their site offers tips on how a properly trained phlebotomist should conduct procedures:
--Make your patient feel comfortable and put them at ease by explaining what you’re going to do.
--Try and minimize their pain by inserting the needle as smoothly as possible.
--Feel, rather than look, for the vein.
--Don’t give your patients a glare or a pitiful look when they complain of the pain. You may be used to this procedure day in and day out, but they’re not used to being poked by needles.
--If your patient is a child, get an adult who is close to the young one to stay nearby so that he or she is reassured.
--Double check the name and other information of the patient before and after your draw the sample and label the test tube or bottle.
--Keep meticulous records so that there are no untoward mix ups.
--Take the necessary safety precautions like wearing gloves and closed lab coats.
--Never ever reuse needles even if you think it is ok to do so.
--Protect yourself and other patients from becoming infected when you’re drawing blood from patients who are HIV positive or have AIDS.
--At the same time, don’t discriminate against them because of their condition.
--Ensure safety in your lab so that unauthorized personnel are not allowed entry.
--Never draw blood from a foot if the patient is diabetic.
--If your patient feels faint or dizzy when you’re drawing blood, stop the process immediately and have them lie down. If necessary, call in a doctor.
--The best way to put your patient at ease is to distract them while you skillfully insert the needle as fast and accurately as you can.
--Ask patients if they’re taking blood thinners or anti-coagulants before you draw blood.
--Keep an eye on the patient’s pulse while applying a tourniquet.
--Above all, show that you’re confident and capable and that you know perfectly well what needs to be done. This will help reassure your patient and put them at ease.

Phlebotomists can also prepare and process blood tests, according to, and Phlebotomists are also responsible for:
--Explaining the procedure to patients
--Updating patient records
--Preparing stains and reagents
--Cleaning and sterilizing equipment
--Taking a patient’s blood pressure, pulse and respiration rate
--Sending urine and fecal samples for lab testing

A phlebotomist cannot be squeamish at the sight of blood, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal. The job involves sticking a needle in someone's arm and drawing a sample, labeling it and performing preliminary processing in some cases. They often double as receptionists. One must have good people skills and the flexibility to deal with a wide variety of reactions. Data from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota said 62 percent of medical errors relating to blood work stem from the collection end. That makes a fastidious, precise attitude useful in this work. Training for phlebotomy can take as short a time as eight weeks. However, many students go for more study, including two-year and four-year degrees that can lead to jobs as technicians and technologists performing work inside the lab analyzing blood and tissue samples. Phlebotomists work in labs, hospitals, and sometimes on the road at nursing homes. They staff the labs where you go when the doctor sends you. They take your blood when you donate it. It's a very hands-on, people-oriented job.

When you get blood drawn, remember to ask questions about the integrity of the person doing the procedure, and don't be afraid to ask about their certification. Since it's your blood, you have the right to know.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.


Ryan said...

Phlebotomy technician training include working in a doctor's office or clinic, emergency room work, staff phlebotomist in a hospital laboratory, as well as various private laboratories and blood banks.

Anonymous said...

Wasp dudes! Awesome stuff keep it up.