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A phlebotomist draws specimen blood from a vein in the arm, hand or sometimes the wrist. This blood is used for testing, and the specimens are prepared by the phlebotomist for each necessary test. Preparing urine specimens can also fall under the duties of a phlebotomist. Phlebotomy itself requires a training course by an accredited school and then certification. Similar jobs are available; some requiring a bit more training.
Kidney dialysis consists of two types: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Peritoneal dialysis is done through the peritoneal cavity in the stomach, and patients can learn to do it themselves at home. Hemodialysis is done intravenously in which the tubing enters through a vein. Because the needle that extracts a blood sample for phlebotomy is the same process as inserting the needle connected to the tube for dialysis, many phlebotomists can get work doing hemodialysis.
An intravenous line that delivers medication is called an IV and is inserted into a vein, usually in the arm or hand. A phlebotomist can take another period of training and get certified to administer IVs. This training varies state by state, and different countries have different requirements as well. But the fact remains that the process of inserting a needle to administer medication is identical to inserting a needle to withdraw a blood sample.
Phlebotomists are usually required to handle their own specimens in order to be sent to the lab. This can require centrifuging blood to separate out plasma or serum. These samples are them transferred by pipettes into another collection tube, then occasionally refrigerated or frozen. Likewise, urine samples need to be transferred to tubes or put into sterile jars. A lab technician uses many of these skills to further the tests toward conclusion. With extra training, which varies state to state, a phlebotomist could use the specimen skills she has to work as a technician in a lab.
Rebecca Cioffi worked in the entertainment industry for almost 20 years and is currently living in Phoenix, Ariz., where she is working on a book. She is also a phlebotomist.