Introduction to Phlebotomy Technician schools

Phlebotomy techs are an essential part of clinics and hospitals. Phlebotomists are key to the ever-growing healhtcare industry, as they are the ones trained to draw blood for lab tests or donations. In the U.S. the requirements for becoming a phlebotomist vary from state to state. But most will require at least a high school diploma, and getting some additional college education will surely improve one’s chances of beginning a career. It’s a growing field that allows one to work in the medical industry with a diploma or certificate that can be obtained through a traditional program or online.

What Does a Phlebotomy Technician Do?

Phlebotomy technicians are trained to draw blood, conduct some clerical work and data revolving around blood samples, and handle blood between labs. Specimens must be labeled correctly and properly stored for the correct readings to take place. Nearly all data and labeling is done on computer programs. Phlebotomy techs learn about anatomy and how to safely handle samples and specimens. Through all legitimate phlebotomy tech programs, students complete clinicals that give them hands-on training for working with patients and samples.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Phlebotomy Technician?

The majority of phlebotomy tech programs take one semester to one year to complete. This is for students attending school full time and varies based on the program. Those attending part time can expect to take up to two years depending on how many hours they are taking per semester. Some community colleges and online programs offer accelerated programs where students can complete coursework in a shorter amount of time. Regardless of how long you spend on the coursework portion of a phlebotomy tech program, you will spend the same number of hours in clinicals. All accredited phlebotomy tech programs involve clinicals, which allow students to work with patients and understand their role in the clinic or hospital more thoroughly.

Most phlebotomy tech programs consist of 60 coursework hours. About six weeks of clinicals are required for most programs in order to work as a phlebotomy tech. Some employers prefer employees to have certification from designated organizations. While these certificates are not required, they are very beneficial for a student’s career. Many employers will choose someone with certification over someone who only has a diploma in the subject.

What Types of Certifications Exist for Phlebotomy Technicians?

There are two types of certifications that phlebotomy technicians can test for. One is the Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT), and the other is called the Registered Phlebotomy Technician (RPT). A tech does not need both to increase their employment opportunities. One is enough to help you get a job that may not be available to you without a certificate. There is no single governing organization for obtaining either of these certificates.

How Do I Get Certification as a Phlebotomy Technician?

Students can gain certification from many different organizations. A student must have a C average or higher in order to sit for certification from most of the following groups. These organizations are:

  • The National Phlebotomy Association (NPA)
  • Association of Phlebotomy Technicians (APT)
  • American Medical Technologists (AMT)
  • The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT)

Any of these organizations are valid for certifying phlebotomy techs. Your program director or instructors will have further information on what organization for certification is most acceptable in your area. Often, the preferred certification source varies by region.

What If I Don’t Have a Certification?

You are still able to work as a phlebotomy tech without certification. Technically, you’re able to perform the same tasks and you will have experience after completing clinicals. With additional experience, you may become as desirable of a candidate as someone with certification. You may also land a job as a phlebotomy tech and go on gain certification later on. This is common for techs who need to start working right away and are able to find an employer comfortable taking on someone who is relatively new to the field. This is most common in major cities with very large hospitals that regularly experience a shortage in phlebotomy techs.

What Do I Look for in a Phlebotomy Technician Program?

You must look for an accredited phlebotomy technician program when researching what school to attend. These are available through community colleges, traditional universities and online schools. The source of the program does not matter as much as the accreditation for that program. Without coming from an accredited program, you will not be allowed to sit for certification, which greatly improves your chances of employment.

Look for a program that has been accredited for a few years and is well-established. Many schools offering phlebotomy technician programs specialize in medical diplomas that can be achieved in a short amount of time with very limited pre-requisites. Many of these programs have online extensions for students who work full time and have families. It is best to find a program that has a history of placing students in clinics and hospitals versus taking a chance of a new program that may have fewer contacts in the industry in your area.

What Will I Learn in a Phlebotomy Technician Program?

Students learn human anatomy and proper procedures for taking blood samples. Coursework includes physiology. Students learn lab safety and blood and cell composition, which is vital for those working with blood samples on a daily basis. After entering the clinicals phase of the program, students focus on blood sample procedures for newborns, as well as finger stick methods, which are used for those who do not have visible veins or damaged veins. Students also learn the butterfly stick method, which is typically used for the elderly and children or those with small veins that are difficult to detect. The program also covers basic venipuncture techniques, which is the most common method used with patients.

Many programs also cover how to handle lab equipment, how to prevent spills and how to properly clean up any mishaps when taking blood. CPR certification is also included for some programs. If your program does not include CPR certification, your employer may require you to take a class. CPR classes are often available at hospitals, libraries, community centers, and community colleges. The Red Cross also sometimes hosts CPR courses at high schools. CPR training usually takes four to six hours and takes one morning or afternoon to complete. In many areas, it is free.

Is There Any Additional Training I Can Receive as Phlebotomy Technician?

Phlebotomy techs can gain certification as a Donor Phlebotomy Technician (DPT), which allows them to work at blood collection sites. You may have full time employment at one of these centers or work under contract for special blood drives held in the community. It is an excellent way to increase your career possibilities. To become a DPT, you need only a few hours of additional training and you must sit for an exam specific to working with blood donors. Some employers pay for techs to receive this certification, so it’s worth asking your supervisor or someone in HR about this opportunity.

Where Do Phlebotomy Technicians Work?

The vast majority of phlebotomy techs work in hospitals. This is where there’s the most volume of patients for techs to work with. Large hospitals in urban cities often employ many techs, as they’re needed in nearly all departments of a hospital. Techs can also work in labs, doctor’s offices and clinics, but most work in hospitals, especially at the beginning of their careers. Working in a hospital, techs typically report to a head tech and often work under the supervision of another tech when they first start. Those working in labs, doctor’s offices and clinics have far more autonomy and usually report to a nurse or physician versus a supervising tech.

In labs and hospitals, techs are usually needed around the clock. You may work morning or night shifts, depending on what’s needed and seniority. Many techs start their careers working night shifts. You may also have to work holidays and most techs do work weekends, even if it is only one weekend a month. Others regularly work weekends and have two weekdays off. Like doctors and nurses, techs may also be on-call and have to report to work at a moment’s notice. Schedules depend on many factors and vary by facility and employer. Those working in doctor’s offices and clinics have more typical business hours that do not involve holidays or weekends. These positions can be difficult to get, as most techs stay at these jobs for the duration of their careers.

How Much Do Phlebotomy Technicians Earn?

Phlebotomy technicians earn on average about $37,000 per year. Those starting out usually earn just under $30,000, but that quickly rises once the tech has a few years of experience. Techs working in a supervisor role or specializing in blood donors can earn more, due to increased responsibilities and certification. As previously mentioned, many medical facilities offer reimbursement for education and training for techs. A tech can work full time and attend school part time, either online or through a traditional program, and earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Usually, this tech will go on to work at the same facility, but in a different role that utilizes their new education and training.

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