There are a variety of in-demand careers within the healthcare industry right now, and the role of a phlebotomist is definitely one of them. According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for phlebotomists from 2018–2028 has a staggering growth rate of 23%, which is significantly faster than average.
With this critical healthcare role on the rise, we often get asked: “How do I become a phlebotomist?” So today we’ll start by quickly running down what a phlebotomist does, the steps you need to take to become one, and the potential certifications you’ll need.
What Does a Phlebotomist Do?
Phlebotomy techs collect blood and non-blood specimens for testing through venipuncture, finger pricks, or heel pricks (the latter is often used for infants). These specimens are then analyzed in a clinical laboratory. Since blood and non-blood tests are used to diagnose illnesses, evaluate the effectiveness of medications, and determine whether a patient is receiving proper nutrition, phlebotomists play a critical role in patient care. In some cases, phlebotomists collect blood for other purposes, such as blood drives or for blood donation centers.
Phlebotomists must perform important non-clinical tasks, too. They talk with patients and donors to put them at ease about having their blood drawn, which takes a considerable amount of patience and compassion. They must be detail-oriented since they’re also tasked with verifying the patient’s identity to ensure proper labeling of specimens and entry of information into the healthcare facility’s database. While handling all of this, they must also maintain a spotless work environment in an effort to avoid infection or contamination. Additionally, phlebotomists assemble and maintain equipment such as needles and specimen containers.
In this role, you also have your pick of healthcare settings to work in. Phlebotomists are found in physicians’ offices, hospitals, outpatient care facilities, blood donation centers, and laboratories.
How Do I Become a Phlebotomist?
To become a phlebotomist, you do have to take a few specific steps:
Complete High School: To enroll in a phlebotomy program, you’ll need to have a high school diploma.
Get Hands-On Experience: Students wishing to sit for the Certified Phlebotomy Technician exam will be required to complete 30 venipunctures and 10 capillary sticks on a live person. At MedCerts, we cannot guarantee we will find a student a site to complete this clinical requirement, so only students employed in a healthcare facility or take full responsibility for meeting their clinical requirements will be admitted to our program.
Undergo Phlebotomy Training: This training is available through vocational schools, community colleges, and online programs. Though requirements vary, typically you need is that high school diploma and your immunization records (since you’ll be doing lab work). In some cases, there might be a minimum GPA requirement from high school.
After training, you should be:
Knowledgeable about medical terminology, disease processes, anatomy, and physiology
Familiar with healthcare settings and the role of the phlebotomy technician
Know the responsibilities of patient care and safety related to preparation and collection complications
Understand the importance of customer service, communication skills, and professionalism
Appreciate the role of HIPAA, OSHA, COLA, and CLIA-waived testing
Programs can take up to a year, but some are as short as three months.
Get Certified: Once you’ve met all the training requirements, you can sit for the Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT) exam, which is sponsored by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
What Specific Certifications Do I Need?
You need the CPT certification, which covers all of the bases we outlined above. A route that other candidates often take is to become a Cardio-Phlebotomy Technician, which ultimately means you’re tackling two certifications at once (in addition to CCSP). This route includes the CET certification, which stands for Certified EKG Technician. This certification covers diagnostic cardiac testing, which includes electrocardiograms, Holter monitors, and stress tests. Having the dual certifications makes you an attractive job candidate since you have such a wide (yet still specialized) set of skills.
What Jobs Am I Eligible for Once I’m Certified?
While this isn’t a comprehensive list, we typically advise students that they’d be a good fit for the following healthcare roles:
Clinical Laboratory Technician
Medical Laboratory Technician
Laboratory Specimen Processor
Pathology Laboratory Technician
Sterile Processing Technician
Emergency Room/Department Technician
Blood Bank Technologist
Keep in mind that the phlebotomy-related jobs, titles, and even certification requirements can vary from state to state.
Become a Phlebotomist Today
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what it takes to become a phlebotomist. If you have a sincere interest, definitely take the time to review the potential programs so you can decide if an online program or school setting would be preferred. While we promote our online programs as a fast and economical way to get certified, different students have different needs. And no matter how you get certified, you’ll be embarking on a satisfying new career path that has a significant impact on patients’ lives.
Have more questions about our phlebotomy certifications? Then get in touch to speak to one of our consultants.