Phlebotomy classes provide the education needed to practice phlebotomy, a medical profession that entails drawing blood from patients. Most phlebotomists in the United States have taken specialized phlebotomy courses and have received phlebotomy certification.
Phlebotomists are healthcare support personnel, working alongside doctors, nurses and medical assistants, who collect blood from people for tests, blood bank donations, research and transfusions. They do it mainly via venipuncture, which involves drawing blood intravenously. Phlebotomists also handle the blood samples and interact with the patient, supplying labels, double-checking patient identity, obtaining patient information and testing vital signs, among other tasks.
Nurses and even doctors used to do most of the work of drawing patients’ blood. But as the healthcare industry became more complex, a particular kind of specialist was needed, and phlebotomists now handle much of the work, especially in busy settings where nurses and nursing assistants are too busy to handle the heavy load of blood drawing.
Many people work as phlebotomists while attending medical school, or as a way to enter the healthcare profession. It can make an idea stepping stone on the way to work in other similar fields, such as hematology and work with blood diseases.
Historically, training for work as a phlebotomist lasted no more than a day. But most states now require several months of phlebotomy classes and passage of a phlebotomy certification exam, in addition to at least a high school education.
Phlebotomy courses cover basic anatomy, patient care, safety measures such as protections against the spread of infectious diseases, biohazard management, first aid, patient rights and other legal concerns, and blood-drawing techniques. Community colleges, many vocational and training schools, and some four-year colleges offer phlebotomy classes. Some programs can also be found online. On average, phlebotomy courses cost $1,500 to $3,000, though that cost typically includes the certification test.
An externship at a blood-drawing facility is usually included as part of the coursework, introducing students to the realities of the field before they enter it. These externships are overseen by licensed medical professionals, often registered nurses. Classes, together with the externship, can take anywhere from four months to a year or more, depending on the school. The shortest classes can generally be found at vocational and trade schools that offer Allied Health courses.
Once they’ve completed the phlebotomy classes, students are given three chances to pass the Phlebotomy Certification Exam. After three failing scores, they must complete the coursework again in order to retake the test. Though not required in all states, certification typically makes phlebotomists more attractive to employers and tends to garner higher incomes.
In order to qualify to take the certification test, candidates must generally meet one of three criteria, which vary from state to state. A candidate must have completed accredited phlebotomy courses, must have worked for at least one year in a job that involved using phlebotomy skills, or must already have a certification from another certification organization recognized by the American Certification Agency.
Once in the field, phlebotomists make relatively low pay, especially at the entry level, but the amounts can vary significantly depending on location, education, experience and place of employment, among other factors. The average salary for a phlebotomist starting out in the United States falls between $20,000 and $26,000 per year. That climbs to $30,000-$35,000 for those with five to nine years experience and $50,000 for those with more than 20 years.
Certification makes a substantial difference in pay, since employers view it as a kind of gold standard. And the more education, the better, including continuing education classes. Hospital phlebotomists tend to make more than those in office settings, while government employees make even more than their hospital counterparts.
Phlebotomy requires technical skill and some medical knowledge. But it also requires people skills, an ability to deal with patients, including many who are uncomfortable around blood or needles. And it requires an ability to pay close attention to details, as the job includes exposure to sometimes dangerous medical materials.
With the increasing specialization of the healthcare industry, phlebotomy opportunities are only expected to grow. Phlebotomy classes are an essential part of any plan to find a job in the field, and they’re a relatively quick way to get one’s foot in the door of the medical world.
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