Phlebotomists take blood samples from patients for laboratory analysis, ensuring patient safety during the blood collection process. They transport the specimen to the laboratory, following strict instructions from the doctor of medicine.
Phlebotomists typically do the following:
- Arrange daily activities based on urgency of requests for fluid samples
- Identify patients and their personal information using their ID, documents or other means
- Determine the right venipuncture method based on patient age, health etc.
- Reassure patients and help them relax
- Find veins that are suitable for puncture
- Draw blood using sterilized needles, vials and other equipment
- Ensure optimal quality and quantity of samples
- Label samples correctly and send or deliver them for testing
- Answer patient questions and provide useful information
- Keep accurate records on fluid specimens and tests
- Adhere to all relevant health and safety standards while working
- Help with blood transfusions when needed
In addition to drawing blood, phlebotomists also may collect urine or other samples. They instruct patients on procedures for proper collection and ensure that the sample is acceptable and clearly labeled in its container.
Phlebotomists must keep their work area and instruments clean and sanitary to avoid causing infections or other complications. Some phlebotomists also ship or transport blood or other samples to different locations.
The following job titles also refer to phlebotomist:
specialist in phlebotomy
practitioner of phlebotomy
Phlebotomists who collect blood donations sometimes travel to different offices or sites in order to set up mobile donation centers. Some phlebotomists travel to long-term care centers or patients’ homes.
Phlebotomists may be required to stand for long periods of time.
Injuries and Illnesses
Phlebotomists must be careful when handling blood, needles, and other medical supplies. Injuries may occur if they are not careful with medical equipment.
Most phlebotomists work full time. Phlebotomists who work in hospitals and labs may need to work nights, weekends, and holidays.
Phlebotomists typically enter the occupation with a certificate from a postsecondary phlebotomy program, but some qualify with a high school diploma and on-the-job training. Employers may prefer to hire candidates who have earned professional certification.
ISCO skill level
ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:
- the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
- the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
- the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.
Phlebotomist is a Skill level 2 occupation.
Phlebotomist career path
These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to phlebotomist.
Long term prospects
These occupations require some skills and knowledge of phlebotomist. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of phlebotomist with a significant experience and/or extensive training.
Essential knowledge and skills
This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of phlebotomist.
- Techniques of blood-sampling: The appropriate techniques for the collection of blood samples for laboratory work purposes, depending on the group of people targeted such as children or elderly.
- Hygiene in a health care setting: The procedures related to maintaining a hygienic environment within a health care setting such as hospitals and clinics. It can range from hand washing to cleaning and disinfection of medical equipment used and infection control methods.
- Blood donation: The procedures related to collecting blood samples from volunteers, the screening testing against disease and the follow-up.
- Human physiology: The science that studies the human organs and its interactions and mechanisms.
- Infection control: The routes of transmission and methods of preventing spread of common and important infecting organisms together with the methods available for sterilisation and disinfection of pathogenic organisms in the prevention of infection.
- Sterilization techniques: The methods and techniques used to destroy or remove microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria that can contaminate medical instruments or any type of material in a health care setting.
- Human anatomy: The dynamic relationship of human structure and function and the muscosceletal, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, urinary, reproductive, integumentary and nervous systems; normal and altered anatomy and physiology throughout the human lifespan.
- Medical informatics: The processes and tools used for the analysis and dissemination of medical data through computerized systems.
Essential skills and competences
These skills are necessary for the role of phlebotomist.
- Perform venepuncture procedures: Perform venipuncture procedures by selecting a suitable site to puncture the patients` veins, preparing the puncture site, explaining the procedure to the patient, extracting the blood and collecting it in an appropriate container.
- Use venepuncture procedure equipment: Make use of the instruments and tools such as tourniquet, alcohol wipes, gauze sponges, sterilized needles and syringes, adhesive bandages, gloves and evacuated collection tubes, used in the procedure for collecting blood from patients.
- Collect biological samples from patients: Follow recommended processes to collect bodily fluids or samples from patients for further laboratory testing, assisting the patient as required.
- Empathise with the healthcare user: Understand the background of clients` and patients’ symptoms, difficulties and behaviour. Be empathetic about their issues; showing respect and reinforcing their autonomy, self-esteem and independence. Demonstrate a concern for their welfare and handle according to the personal boundaries, sensitivities, cultural differences and preferences of the client and patient in mind.
- Transport blood samples: Ensure that the blood samples collected are transported safely and correctly, following strict procedures to avoid contamination
- Label medical laboratory samples: Correctly label samples of the medical laboratory with the accurate information, according to the implemented quality system in place.
- Respond to healthcare users’ extreme emotions: React accordingly when a healthcare user becomes hyper-manic, panicky, extremely distressed, agressive, violent, or suicidal, following appropriate training if working in contexts where patients go through extreme emotions regularly.
- Monitor patient’s vital signs: Monitor and analyse vital signs of heart, respiration, and blood pressure.
- Label blood samples: Label blood samples taken from patients in compliance with regulations and the identity of the patient.
- Communicate effectively in healthcare: Communicate effectively with patients, families and other caregivers, health care professionals, and community partners.
- Maintain professional records: Produce and maintain records of work performed.
- Comply with legislation related to health care: Comply with the regional and national legislation that is relevant to one`s work and apply it in practice.
- Interact with healthcare users: Communicate with clients and their carer’s, with the patient’s permission, to keep them informed about the clients’ and patients’ progress and safeguarding confidentiality.
- Manage infection control in the facility: Implement a set of measures to prevent and control infections, formulating and establishing health and safety procedures and policies.
- Ensure safety of healthcare users: Make sure that healthcare users are being treated professionally, effectively and safe from harm, adapting techniques and procedures according to the person’s needs, abilities or the prevailing conditions.
- Work in multidisciplinary health teams: Participate in the delivery of multidisciplinary health care, and understand the rules and competences of other healthcare related professions.
Optional knowledge and skills
This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of phlebotomist. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Medical terminology: The meaning of medical terms and abbreviations, of medical prescriptions and various medical specialties and when to use it correctly.
- Blood transfusion: The procedures involved in blood transfusions, including compatibility and disease testing, by means of which blood is transferred into blood vessels, taken from donors with the same blood type.
- Blood collection on babies: The recommended procedure for collecting blood from babies through their heel.
- Paediatric phlebotomy procedures: The paediatric blood collection procedures related to the age and specificity of the children involved, how to interact with children and their family to prepare them for the blood collection procedure and how to engage with children`s anxiety related to needles.
- Blood type classification: The classification of blood types such as group A, B, AB, 0 and their characteristics.
- Blood product storage conditions: The refrigeration conditions under which the blood can be properly stored, the length of time and measures applied against contamination.
Optional skills and competences
These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of phlebotomist. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Handle patients with special needs: Respond appropriately and communicate effectively with patients with special needs such as learning disabilities and difficulties, physical disabilities, mental illness, memory loss, bereavement, terminal illness, distress or anger.
- Employ foreign languages in care: Communicate in foreign languages with healthcare users, their carers, or services providers. Use foreign languages to facilitate patient care according to the needs of the patient.
ISCO group and title
5329 – Personal care workers in health services not elsewhere classified
- Phlebotomist – ESCO
- Phlebotomists : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Phlebotomist job description example with duties and skills – Workable
- Featured image: By University of Delaware – University of Delaware, Department of Medical Technology, CC BY 3.0