Name: Angela Swicegood
Job Title: Phlebotomist
Where: Bentonville, Arkansas
Employer: Private Clinic
Years of Experience: 1
Education: GED, Phlebotomy School, CPT (Certified Phlebotomy Technician)
Salary: See the PayScale Research Center for the median phlebotomy salaries.
Phlebotomy Salaries and Career Outlook
We recently needled Angela about her phlebotomist career, work tasks of a phlebotomist, training required to become a phlebotomist and factors that affect phlebotomy salaries.
Nobody likes to have their blood drawn, but Angela has some great tips for how to help patients feel more comfortable. She also gives advice on the importance of developing skills and experience for improving your phlebotomist career outlook. For readers interested in what it’s like to be a phlebotomist, the average pay for phlebotomists, different phlebotomist career options, or the outlook for phlebotomist careers, this interview is required reading!
Phlebotomist Job Description:
Phlebotomists collect specimens – blood, sputum, feces, urine, bodily fluids – for testing purposes. Blood is the main specimen that phlebotomists collect. You apply a tourniquet and locate the best vein possible. The median cubital, located in the middle of the arm, is usually the vein of choice.
You can use needles and a syringe, or you can use a butterfly needle on a syringe or a hub. When feeling for the vein, it has a “bounce” to it. If you feel something hard that doesn’t spring back, it is more than likely a tendon. You collect the correct amount of blood from the vein to put into a specimen tube to send to the lab for testing. The tubes have color-coded tops, which specify what additives are in the tube.
Some additives allow the blood to clot, then the tube is spun, and serum is collected for the test. Other tubes contain a chemical to keep the blood from clotting, and when a test is run on whole blood, such as a CBC (complete blood count). There is also an order to the draw, this means that you have to use the colored tubes in order. This keeps you from contaminating additives from one tube to the other.
What type of skills or training do you need to become a phlebotomist?
I went to an Allied Health School. The class was 2 months long. I then took a state exam to become certified. I do believe that you can become a phlebotomist without any formal training. This is hard to do though, as most employers want someone who has a clue as to what is going on. Nurses are given on-the-job-training for how to do phlebotomy. Sometimes they call for a phlebotomist to do a hard-to-find vein.
Phlebotomists do the same job, day after day, so you get experienced as to where the better veins are. When I completed school for phlebotomy, and completed my CPT, it took 6 months to find a job, as most employers wanted someone with experience, so it was hard for me to get my foot in the door.
Do you recall any humorous moments from your phlebotomist career?
I went into a patient’s room when I worked at the hospital, and asked a man if he was allergic to latex. He looked at me like I was crazy. He then replied, “I never played with those things!” He was kind of angry at me, but I couldn’t figure out why.
I kept thinking of why he was so angry with me for asking that question, and I soon figured it out. He was apparently hard of hearing, and thought I had asked him If he was allergic to Playtex. I laughed so hard and so did my co-workers. Also we get called “vampires” so that always gives me a chuckle.
One of the work tasks of a phlebotomist is drawing blood, do patients dread that?
Some do and some don’t. It seems the men are the ones that seem to faint, or throw a fit. Kids are okay if their parents haven’t scared them about being poked with a needle. I have drawn 2-year-olds that sat still and didn’t make a peep. It is a mental thing I do believe. You can psych yourself out for things like this.
I just assure them that I am there to help figure out why they are sick and I am not there to hurt them. I always tell my patients that if I hurt them, let me know, and I will take the needle out, but then that requires another stick.
When I draw a small child, I let them help me, so they feel more at ease. I let them hold the tourniquet and they watch the blood being drawn into the syringe, and they think that is neat. I also give them a toy afterwards (bought with my own money).
Any advice to those who want to look into phlebotomist careers?
Go to school, be persistent in looking for a job and do not give up. Call all types of medical facilities. There will be someone out there that will give you the chance to pursue your career. I almost gave up after 6 months of looking, but my chance came finally.
What is the difference between a nurse and a phlebotomist?
A nurse has much more schooling than a phlebotomist. A nurse is a “jack of all trades” so to speak. They learn a lot more about anatomy, medications, vital signs, etc. So really, there is no comparison between a nurse and a phlebotomist.
What is the phlebotomist career outlook?
I would say it is good. There is a high turnover in phlebotomy due to “burn out.” And phlebotomist wages are not the best. Several phlebotomists go back to school and become nurses.
What factors influence the salary of phlebotomist professionals?
Experience. Experience. Experience. Private facilities pay way better than public facilities. I worked in a hospital as my first phlebotomy job, but found a better-paying phlebotomy job in a private cancer clinic.
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- Median Phlebotomy Salaries by Years of Experience