Phlebotomist Job Description

The Job Description of a Phlebotomist

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Phlebotomist Job Description

Phlebotomist, Sept 29 2011 SoundOff—Fort Meade (Flickr.com)

The term “phlebotomy” comes from the Greek words phlebos, which means veins, and tome, meaning incision. That definition succinctly describes the job of your typical phlebotomist. They work with patients in a hands-on capacity, whether in hospitals or laboratory settings, and are responsible for drawing blood or gathering other fluid or tissue samples. Collected specimens may be required for laboratory testing, or collected blood may be used in blood banks.

The Phlebotomist’s Job Outlook

The job of a phlebotomist is not a new one; however, the specific career has only recently enjoyed such high demand. In the past, drawing blood was a job performed by doctors or nurses. As demands have increased on the medical profession as a whole, more and more medical facilities are adding phlebotomists to their teams. This has greatly increased efficiency, as doctors and nurses are able to focus on other aspects of patient care.

This increased demand for trained phlebotomists is reflected in the profession’s projected growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a 14% to 19% increase of employment in the field of phlebotomy by the year 2018.

A Day in the Life of a Phlebotomist

Before a phlebotomist ever sees his first patient, he is responsible for making sure his workspace is organized. Only sterile equipment can be used, and any syringes, needles or other implements for drawing blood must be new for each patient. If a patient will require multiple tests, the phlebotomist will need to lay out the various specimen tubes and containers that will be needed.

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Since so many diseases can be spread through blood and bodily fluids, the phlebotomist bears a heavy responsibility in caring for his patients. He must keep their safety – and his own – in mind at all times. There are very specific laws in place regarding the proper handling and disposal of medical waste, like needles and syringes, and many hospitals and clinics have their own additional policies. By following these procedures carefully and using fresh gloves with each new patient, the phlebotomist greatly minimizes potential risks to himself or his patients.

When his first patient arrives, the phlebotomist will need to answer any questions or concerns the patient may have. Many patients are squeamish around needles or nervous about the procedure. Others will have questions about why certain samples are needed, how they’ll be used, or how long it will take to get test results back. The phlebotomist will need to patiently address each question and concern before proceeding with his work.

The phlebotomist will then proceed to obtain the needed samples. He will determine the best location for drawing blood – typically through a vein, though sometimes he will need to draw blood from an artery or capillary. Sometimes a patient’s veins can be hard to find, so the phlebotomist will need to use alternative techniques to collect the needed samples. He will utilize his extensive knowledge of the circulatory system to determine the best approach in each situation.

In some cases, once the blood samples have been collected, the phlebotomist will need to process and prepare the samples for analysis by a medical professional. At other times, samples will need to be transported from the phlebotomist’s office to a separate laboratory for analysis, and the phlebotomist will need to make sure that each sample reaches the lab promptly. After the results have been analyzed, the phlebotomist may also pass on the results to the patient’s physician.

Sometimes a test will require a follow-up visit, or even further testing at regular intervals. In some cases, the phlebotomist will be responsible for tracking the time and making sure follow-up tests are conducted within the appropriate time limit.

The phlebotomist will also often be responsible for various administrational or process related tasks. Patient information will need to be collected and recorded on a computer, and lab forms will need to be properly matched with specimen samples.

If a phlebotomist works in a blood bank, he will be responsible for determining the suitability of potential donors. He will need to go over a list of questions with the donor, review the donor’s medical history, and then check vital signs and hemoglobin levels before collecting blood. He will make sure that the donor is comfortable and safe during and after the procedure, and that the blood is handled and stored properly.

If a phlebotomist works in a hospital or clinic, he may also be involved with various aspects of patient treatment. If he possesses the proper licensing, he may be responsible for administering certain anticoagulant drugs or intramuscular or subcutaneous injections. He may also conduct saline flushes of IV lines to make sure that patients have received the full dose of medication.

Some Handy Skills

Since the phlebotomist’s job involves working directly with patients, it’s helpful to have good people skills. As mentioned, the phlebotomist will often need to reassure patients or help them relax before beginning the procedure of drawing blood. Each patient will be different, and the phlebotomist will need patience and good communication skills to handle each one appropriately and kindly.

In addition, each patient will be there for a different reason. Some procedures will be fairly routine, while others may be complicated by medical problems that make drawing blood difficult. The phlebotomist will need the intuition and knowledge to handle each patient’s needs in an appropriate manner.

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