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Earning certification in phlebotomy involves both classroom instruction and hands-on clinical training. Programs that train phlebotomists teach students how to perform a variety of different skills related to the proper use of lab equipment and drawing blood. As a health care professional, a phlebotomist must practice universal safety precautions, maintain patient confidentiality, follow instructions and pay attention to detail. In most cases, phlebotomists are responsible for record-keeping that involves performing various clerical tasks and making computer entries. These medical workers interact with patients and other members of a health care team and, therefore, must develop interpersonal communication skills. Phlebotomists also need to have healthy vision and good hand-eye coordination.
An individual interested in training to become a certified phlebotomist must be a high school graduate or have passed the High School Equivalency Test and received a Graduate Equivalency Diploma (GED). Many community colleges and technical or vocational schools offer associate degrees and/or certificate programs in phlebotomy. While not all states require that they be licensed, most employers prefer to hire only those practitioners certified in phlebotomy. Required courses include anatomy and physiology with a focus on the human circulatory system, venipuncture techniques, medical terminology and CPR. Students also learn basic laboratory procedures.
A student earning a two-year associate degree in phlebotomy is generally required to complete a minimum of 60 credit hours, although some schools may require 70 or more semester hours. Degree programs normally expect students to schedule at least 15 semester hours of general education courses selected from different academic disciplines. Students select classes from areas such as communications, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences or math. Some curriculums require phlebotomy students to take classes in public speaking, psychology and computer technology. Any course work is in addition to completing a supervised clinical experience.
Shorter certificate programs tend to run for about 15 weeks. Certificate programs of study prepare students to take the phlebotomy certification exam. Some programs begin teaching students by having them perform blood draws on a simulator arm, and then drawing blood from fellow students before being assigned to a clinical site to fulfill the field experience requirement. Many schools now offer classes during evening hours or on weekends to accommodate employed, nontraditional students. Programs are structured to provide a total of 80 to 120 hours of instruction, which may include as many as six weeks of clinical experience. The average cost to complete a certificate program in phlebotomy is about $1,600.
Upon completion of either a degree or certificate program, students must pass a national certification exam before being certified as a phlebotomist. Several different credentialing bodies, including the National Phlebotomy Association (NPA), Association of Phlebotomy Technicians (APT) and American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), administer the exam. Other certifying organizations include the National Healthcareer Association (NHA), National Credentialing Agency (NCA), American Medical Technologists (AMT) and National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT). Graduates completing a training program in phlebotomy must earn a minimum grade of ‘C’ in order to qualify to take the certification exam. Once a phlebotomist passes the exam and becomes certified, he or she qualifies to work under minimal supervision in hospital laboratories, outpatient clinics, doctors’ offices, research centers and blood banks.
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Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.