Phlebotomy is using a needle to create an incision in a vein (known as venipuncture). A phlebotomy technician (or phlebotomist) is trained to see patients and draw blood for purposes of donation, research or transfusion. Blood is collected primarily with venipuncture, though for small quantities, a finger stick or heel stick (for infants) may be performed. Doctors and nurses are trained in drawing blood as well.

The phlebotomy technician’s duties involve identifying the patient and taking their vital signs, explaining the procedure to the patient and answering questions, noting the specific tests requisitioned, locating a vein, practicing universal, aseptic precautions in prepping the patient, applying a tourniquet, drawing blood, restoring the puncture area to hemostasis, giving the patient care instructions, properly labeling all collection tubes without error, and delivering specimens as requested. Technicians must readily analyze varying information. Sometimes technicians perform testing on the spot — blood glucose level, for example.

Phlebotomists may work in various settings, including clinics, blood banks or donor-mobiles, doctor’s offices, hospitals, labs or similar facilities. Constantly dealing with blood, which may bear diseases or contaminants, phlebotomy technicians must perform their duties with unwavering caution. Technicians must ensure that the area and the collection instruments are always sterile and safe.

The phlebotomy technician may be the patient’s sole point of contact with the medical lab. The utmost professionalism is needed to assure quality of treatment and safety of each patient. Technicians must be responsible, accurate, and resilient to stress; they should deal well with patients and have a calming presence. They are not squeamish in the presence of blood.

A high school graduate (or equivalent) is eligible to undergo phlebotomy technician training. At present, only California, Washington, Nevada, and Louisiana require special state certification. Job applicants who have succeeded at a national examination are preferred by employers. To sit for examination, prospective technicians must complete a phlebotomy course and acquire lab/clinic experience. The American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians supervises training and certification. After completing their training, phlebotomists receive continuing education to keep up to date.

Phlebotomy technicians are highly sought after. Some facilities must staff three different shifts of technicians.