Digging Deeper into Phlebotomy and What Phlebotomists Do
Phlebotomy is clinically defined as the process of drawing blood for testing, donation and other blood-related procedures. The act of making an incision on a vein is known as venipuncture, although other processes are covered in phlebotomy, such as fingerstick and capillary technique.
The term phlebotomy comes from two Greek words: phlebo which refers to the blood vessels, and tomy, which means making an incision. Early “phlebotomists” took the meaning literally and bled patients by cutting a vein and then allowing the blood to just drip into a container. Others, on the other hand, use leeches to extract blood, although the main purpose is to remove toxins from the blood stream and facilitate the healing process. It was all a messy affair in the past. Thanks to technology and the continuous improvement on the tools used in phlebotomy, drawing blood is now done safely and neatly, although not entirely painless.
What exactly do phlebotomists do?
Their primary role is to collect blood specimen according to laboratory or patient requirements. But they don’t just puncture a vein, extract blood and be done with it. Their work day includes a lot of activities, including the following:
- Identify a patient based on standard phlebotomy protocols
- Give the patient an idea of the procedure about to be performed
- Reassure patients to help ease their nerves or anxieties
- Perform venipuncture, fingerstick or other procedure, depending on the patient’s age and the amount of blood to be collected
- Perform phlebotomy following best practices and standards
- Apply the appropriate dressing to the puncture site after blood is collected
- Label the blood sample properly to avoid misidentification
- Deliver specimen to the right laboratory and within the timeframe specified
- Complete records and input data on a laboratory system
On top of all these, they must perform all procedures following safety protocols to avoid contamination or infection.
Phlebotomists usually work in various health care facilities, including blood donation centers, doctor’s offices and nursing homes. There are also on-call mobile phlebotomists that are hired by various clinical laboratories. Work hours are usually a total of 37.5 hours a week, with part-time options available. Usual schedule is from 9am to 5pm, from Monday to Friday.
When it comes to the salary, full-time phlebotomy technician enjoys a median pay of over $29,000 dollars, but may go higher with the right training, certifications and length of tenure. Training and development usually take up to six months and include understanding of a phlebotomist’s role in the pathology department, blood collecting and labeling methods, and health and safety practices.