Phlebotomy: Where to Start and How to Succeed

Updated on June 20, 2018
Chris Pfarr profile image

I worked as a phlebotomist for 4 years in both out patient and in patient settings.


Where to Get Started

There are many ways to earn a phlebotomy certification and depending on which state you live in you may not even need a license to practice phlebotomy. First off, some hospitals have in house phlebotomy certification programs that range from a single day to one month. Next, there are programs that are taught as extensions of nursing or other health professional schools and these range from a week to twelve weeks. Lastly, there are trade schools and community colleges that offer programs and these programs generally last from three weeks to twelve weeks.

Like any certification programs there is always a cost and depending on your state there is also a renewal fee. The cost in both money and time are definitely something you should consider when selecting a program. Another large factor that you should consider when picking a program is the availability of an internship as part of the program. An internship has two primary benefits; experience and the ability to get your foot in the door. Both of these factors are critical to getting a job as a phlebotomist once you are certified.

From Certification to Landing a Job

Getting a job as a phlebotomist can be difficult. One main question you should answer is whether you want to work primarily in an out-patient or in-patient setting. Once you have identified your area that you would like to work begin looking for jobs either online on a job board or on the company job board. Of course, finding a job after your certification is much easier if you had an internship as part of your program. This will either land you a job directly, give you a job indirectly, or at the very least give you an ample amount of draws. After all, experience is really the only way to perfect the art of drawing blood.

Once you have identified a company or location you would like to work, go in and introduce yourself. In some cases you may end up with a job right there on the spot. It is import that you have a resume that stresses your experience, total number of draws, types of draws, age range of most of your draws, and any specialties regarding drawing blood such as a national certification ect. It is important to make a great first impression in person because most hiring of phlebotomist is out sourced to separate recruiting companies that sift through thousands or resumes a day and it is easy for your resume to get swept up and lost.

Other things you should consider is hours, pay, and other work place incentives. Typically in-patient hours rotate on a 24 hour working schedule and most out-patient sites are from 0700-1700 hours. Pay depends on your responsibility, the more you are responsible out side of just drawing blood generally means you will be compensated more. Lastly, will you have a 401k option, health, dental, and vision, maybe even a chance to purchase stock in the company.

Tips and Tricks

Honestly practice is the only way to get better at finding suitable draw sites on various ages of patients. Every single patient is different and there is not an easy cookie cutter solution to finding a vein.

Tip 1: Always tie the tourniquet TIGHT! (this depends on the age because elderly people will have frail skin). Make sure the tourniquet is tight and secure, this will help you find the veins and double as an anchor for the veins to keep them from rolling.

Tip 2: Always double check you have the right patient before you even get started

Tip 3: ANCHOR below the vein, use your other hand to pull down on the vein/skin to help anchor the vein. Note, you do not need to be directly below the vein to make a secure anchor. Also, grasping the hands and gently rolling the fingers down will anchor many of the veins throughout the arm.

Tip 4: ALWAYS wear gloves, learn and practice finding veins with your gloves on! It will be hard at first but you will get better the more you practice.

Tip 5: Feel with your fingers, do not look with your eyes. If you practice this from day one you will find yourself in a great spot when you begin routine blood draws. Not only will you be fast and proficient you will not fall into many of the traps that await you if you only use your eyes to locate veins. Your eyes cannot tell the health of the vein.

Tip 6: If you are not confident in the vein or you would not stick yourself or a loved one in the area you about to draw blood from, DO NOT STICK THE PATIENT.

Tip 7: Always check both arms before you stick with out confidence.

Tip 8: Always take the time and care to insure a one stick success, do not get wrapped up in speed. No matter where you go the industry standard is 6 patients per hour, that gives you plenty of time to find the best fit vein

Remember no matter how good you are, you are still sticking someone with a needle and it will hurt, your job is to collect the specimen as efficiently as possible. As part of that efficiency you should endeavor to cause as little harm as possible. To do this always strive for blood on one stick and select a sight that will be adequate for every specimen you will need to collect.

Phlebotomy 101 Video

© 2018 Chris Pfarr


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