A phlebotomist is a type of medical assistant or clinical laboratory technician who is responsible for collecting blood samples from patients for laboratory tests, blood donation or even research purposes. Phlebotomists are a relatively new type of medical assistant; their specialty has come about as a low-cost solution to free up nurses’ and doctors’ time, as doctors and nurses used to be the ones responsible for performing blood draws in addition to their other duties.
Phlebotomists must be aware of and always practice standard safety procedures. They are responsible for correctly and safely washing their hands, putting on gloves, collecting specimens, handling specimens, sorting waste material, disposing of waste material, decontaminating equipment and instruments, cleaning up bodily fluid spills and keeping areas clean.
Phlebotomists follow a standard procedure to draw blood. They position the patient in a comfortable position, usually seated or lying down; select an appropriate needle size for the patient; select the appropriate tubes; find a vein, typically in the arm; swab the vein site with alcohol and allow it to dry; put a tourniquet on the patient; insert the needle into the patient; and insert the tube onto the needle and remove the tourniquet. When a sufficient amount of blood has been collected, the phlebotomist then takes out the needle, takes out the tube, applies a cotton ball to the site and applies pressure.
Labeling and Transport
Phlebotomists are responsible for the correct labeling and transport of samples. Before they collect a sample, they must ensure that the tube is not expired. Then they must generate and place the laboratory bar code on the tube. This bar code will contain unique information, such as the patient’s name and the laboratory test to be performed or the purpose of the blood collection. Otherwise, the phlebotomist may have to manually record the patient’s full name, date of birth and/or other information on the tube. The labeled blood specimens must be transported to the laboratory or other site where they are needed within an appropriate length of time.
Phlebotomists must communicate with patients in a professional and caring manner. In addition to greeting patients, phlebotomists should try to make patients physically and emotionally comfortable. They may have to explain procedures and even reassure patients. Needles and blood can be scary for some patients, and phlebotomists must make them feel at ease so the blood samples can be successfully collected with the least trauma possible.
2016 Salary Information for Phlebotomists
Phlebotomists earned a median annual salary of $32,710 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, phlebotomists earned a 25th percentile salary of $27,350, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $38,800, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 122,700 people were employed in the U.S. as phlebotomists.