In addition to collecting blood samples from adults, teenagers, and children, phlebotomists ensure that all collections are properly labeled and handled. Every lab specimen becomes part of a patient's personal medical history, so following proper procedures is extremely important to prevent mix-ups, errors, incorrect diagnoses, or exposure to disease.
Phlebotomist jobs often include preparing specimens (blood, urine, or fecal matter) for laboratory testing and analysis. Many phlebotomists prepare slides, stains, and reagents. They may also clean and sterilize laboratory equipment, being sure to adhere to specific guidelines and instructions.
Phlebotomists wear protective masks, gloves, and eyewear to ensure their safety when handling blood and other bodily materials that could be infectious. Following proper sterilization and safety procedures dramatically minimizes any health risks to laboratory personnel, including phlebotomy technicians.
A phlebotomy job description may include interviewing patients and explaining procedures to them. As part of the initial patient interview, the phlebotomist may monitor and record vital signs such as pulse rate, respiration, and blood pressure.
Many patients, especially young children, are understandably anxious about having blood drawn. A fair number of adults possess strong fears about needles or feel queasy at the sight of blood. A good phlebotomist develops the skills necessary to help patients relax and feel they are in competent hands. Nevertheless, it can be challenging dealing with people of all ages who may be crying, screaming, or even fainting. The good news is that in most cases, the procedure turns out to be far less painful or traumatic than the patient imagined it would be.
Some phlebotomists perform data entry to maintain and update computerized patient records, so potential employers may require a minimum typing speed.
The hours for phlebotomy jobs can vary quite a bit. In hospitals or independent lab settings, there are likely to be day, evening, and night shifts, and some facilities remain open during weekends. As with most jobs, the personnel with the most seniority get to select the hours and days they want to work, so as a newly certified phlebotomist, you may find opportunities working later shifts or weekend hours.