The overwhelming chances are that you will have encountered a phlebotomist at some point in your life. If you have ever had blood taken, for example, then it will have been a member of the phlebotomy team that will have carried out the procedure.
But a phlebotomist’s job involves a great deal more than carefully inserting a needle, while distracting a patient, to take a blood sample. It is also the role of a phlebotomist to ensure that said blood sample reaches the right place afterwards while being handled properly. There is little room for error when it comes to handling this most precious of substances, and for that reason a phlebotomist is an integral part of any healthcare facility. A phlebotomist may also be responsible for processing blood samples too, which is a vital part of the diagnostic process.
If you are thinking about becoming a phlebotomist, then you’ll need to understand just what the role involves as well as its vital place in the whole healthcare infrastructure and, perhaps most importantly, you will need to have a calling to really help those in need. That last part is up to you, but if you would like to understand the role better, then this article is for you. One of the first things to note is that becoming a phlebotomist is nowhere near as difficult as you might suspect. In fact, should you have a look through the health job boards like Health Jobs Nationwide, you’ll notice that it doesn’t even require a college degree.
What is Phlebotomy?
The actual term “phlebotomy” comes from the Ancient Greek “phleps”, meaning vein and “tomia”, meaning cutting. The term refers to the process of taking blood itself. Most often, this involves making a puncture in the vein and removing the blood with a vacuum tube. But this is not the only way to do it. Sometimes, phlebotomists might remove blood from a capillary (the thin blood vessels closest to the surface of the skin), which is a different process involving the removal of blood from the finger, ear lobe, or heel.
What Does a Phlebotomist Do?
To get a bit beyond the obvious, here are some of the things you can expect to do, should you become a phlebotomist:
Employ Various Blood Collection Techniques
As mentioned, taking blood doesn’t always happen in the exact same way each time. Venipuncture (the drawing of blood from an arm vein) is the most common, but you could also employ fingerstick sampling (for small amounts of blood) and heel stick sampling (often for infants, as they cannot reach their feet and are typically prone to sucking an injection site).
Work With Other Specimens
Blood isn’t the only biological substance that is important for diagnosis. Phlebotomists can also find themselves collecting urine, stool, or hair. Phlebotomists need to inform the patient how to do this and then also need to be knowledgeable about how to store and process such samples.
Screen Patients for Blood Donations
For those phlebotomists working in blood donations, they undertake the vital role of screening out donations which may be harmful. This means asking the patient various questions and efficiently logging this information, as well as being aware what answers will render the blood ineligible. Negligence in this department can be disastrous, so this is a vitally important job.
Whatever the specific roles or place of work, there is no denying that phlebotomy is a very important and rewarding career, as well as being one that does not require years of expensive medical education to attain. All that is required is a willingness to work hard and a calling to help people in need.