Less than three months after being forced to resign as President of the United States, Richard Nixon was hospitalized in 1972 for complications from phlebitis. A painful swelling of the leg, phlebitis can lead to blood clots that can travel to the heart or brain causing cardiac arrest or stroke. A few years after the President brought the disease to fame, the National Phlebotomy Association was founded to help set standards as well as a uniform curriculum for professional phlebotomy technicians.
The proper function of blood and veins is central to life. Not just human life but animals and even plants have veins and a circulatory system that literally pumps life juices throughout the body. When a venipuncture is made by a phlebotomist, the flow is being interrupted and the greatest care has to be used not to interfere with the rest of the body’s functioning. This is why the National Phlebotomy Association set out to aid in standardizing procedures and an ethical code related to blood draws. They designed a national curriculum that includes the learning of anatomy, physiology, and algebra, as well as phlebotomy skills.
Healthcare technicians act as a check on doctors’ orders. Technicians are not expected to blindly follow a doctor’s orders but instead to understand the logic of the order so as to minimize human error at any stage along the chain of providing medical care. Before the phlebotomist even meets the patient, they will review the doctor’s order. Then they will prepare the test tubes used for collection and label each one using specialized equipment to ensure correct labeling.
For some tests, an anticoagulant is needed, for others additives are present in the tube. Once the proper tubes, color coded to indicate what kind of test will ultimately be performed, are laid out and labeled, the phlebotomist will be ready to assess the individual patient.
Safety precautions of wearing rubber gloves and using sterile equipment will be strictly adhered to and only then will the actual venipuncture be addressed. The technician will palpitate veins to ensure their accessibility and align the prepared needle at the right angle. There is a list of protocols to follow to ensure a hematoma does not form when the needle is withdrawn.
A good phlebotomist will know exactly how to follow protocol for standard, straight-forward venipuncture, and they will also know what to do if something goes wrong. With good education and lots of experience, phlebotomists become specialists within their field and are then in high demand as valuable employees.
Becoming a certified phlebotomist is important for the healthcare industry and it can be a highly rewarding experience for the phlebotomist as well. If you are considering a career in healthcare, check out phlebotomy programs in your area. Many programs allow at least some of the training to be completed online while hands-on supervised clinic hours will also have to be completed. Phlebotomy technicians have the benefit of flexible work shifts and a good benefit packages. Salaries are directly commensurate with experience.
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