When you choose to enter a healthcare profession, there are two things you can be sure about. As a healthcare technician, you will be helping people live healthier, happier lives; and, no matter what happens in the economy, there will always be a job for you. Whether you want to work in low income community clinics, or hospitals or laboratories, the work of medical technicians is helping-work, worthy and essential. It is work that helps people lead better lives on a daily basis, and it aids in advancing the medical sciences so that new cures and techniques can be developed.
What you need prior to entering a technical training program is an open heart and the ability to keep track of detail. The smallest mistake in medicine can lead to catastrophic consequences for an individual patient. So healthcare technicians are trained to check and recheck their own work and the work of those around them. You learn to rely on a team of people who are your colleagues for both support and criticism.
Everyone is a player on the medical team – from the doctor who makes the diagnosis and orders the tests, to the phlebotomist who draws the blood and labels the collection tube, to the laboratory technician who performs the tests. Any breakdown in communication or trust can lead to delays and mistakes, which ultimately affect the patient who everyone is working to treat.
Phlebotomy can be an especially rewarding career. With only one year of study required to gain certification, jobs are on the rise and students have a choice of working environment once they graduate. If you want a fast-paced, busy work place then you might choose a hospital; if you prefer a part-time slower pace, you might seek employment in a private practice. There are pediatric clinics and many different kinds of pathology labs that all need to hire phlebotomists.
Phlebotomy training can also be seen as a stepping stone to other healthcare technician degrees. Because the training includes courses in anatomy and physiology, for example, these are the same requirements needed for other specialty areas as well. Gaining experience as a phlebotomist will give you clinical experience which is highly valued no matter what your end goal might be. And because phlebotomy offers so many options for a work-life balance, many people end up staying in their chosen career, because they like it so much.
The National Association for Phlebotomy (NPA) is a non-profit education organization founded in the 1970s to help establish a national standard of care and code of ethics. The NPA has now certified over 15,000 phlebotomists in 50 states. The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science and the Association of Phlebotomy Technicians are the other two most respected certifying agencies. While each agency sets its own specific qualifications, generally a student will need to complete about 40 hours of classroom learning (many programs offer online courses), 120 hours of hands-on supervised training, and 100 successful blood collections before sitting for the certification exam.