Deciding on a career change is a big step, and at times it can feel overwhelming. If a career seems appealing but the field is an unfamiliar one, it can be hard to know where to start. Careers in phlebotomy or other highly technical medical fields can be especially opaque. So we’ve put together what we hope will be a handy guide for those looking to make the jump into the rapidly-growing field of phlebotomy.
1) Make sure your background check and drug screening will pass
Phlebotomists are trusted with a patient’s health, as well as with a patient’s sensitive medical records. They are the first (and sometimes the only) human face that a patient interacts with during their medical visit. And the care with which they conduct their job can mean the difference between an accurate patient diagnosis and an inaccurate one. For all these reasons, employers want to make sure the phlebotomists they hire will be on-time, clear-headed, and professional. Candidates with clear background checks and drug screening results are more likely to fit this description, and are therefore seen as less risky.
2) Earn a high school diploma or GED
Although the barriers to entry for a field like phlebotomy are lower than most other medical careers, one expectation most employers have is that their phlebotomists have a high school education. While not a perfect predictor of ability, candidates with at least a high school diploma or GED tend to demonstrate greater critical thinking abilities, as well as clearer and more effective communication skills. These are basic skills that almost any employer will expect candidates to demonstrate during their employment.
3) Get your immunizations
One of the most basic expectations of caregivers such as phlebotomists is to “do no harm” to the patient. Caregivers can’t always make a patient better, but they should never make the patient worse. A phlebotomist is exposed to a wide variety of patients and faces an above-average exposure to communicable diseases. Therefore, they can hardly be expected to perform this part of their duties if they haven’t been inoculated against diseases such as tetanus, measles, hepatitis, etc.
4) Complete a phlebotomy training program
When you enroll in a phlebotomy training program, you can expect to receive both in-classroom instruction and hands-on experience drawing blood. The topics covered in such a program will likely include human anatomy and physiology, specimen collection techniques, first aid, and safety protocols. Most employers (such as hospitals, blood work labs, and plasma donation centers) will not consider applicants who haven’t received basic training in phlebotomy skills.
Completing a phlebotomy certification course is one of the key steps to landing your dream job as a phlebotomist. You will likely need a certain minimum number of classroom hours, as well as a minimum number of blood draws, before being eligible to sit for these exams. Ask your phlebotomy training program about any externships they offer, in order to meet these requirements. Additionally, you may be qualified to volunteer at a blood bank in order to fill any gap between the exam prerequisites and the experience you gained from your training program. Finally, four U.S. states (California, Nevada, Louisiana, and Washington) require phlebotomists to obtain a license to supplement their certification, and earning this license requires sitting for a 2nd exam.
6) Find work as a phlebotomist
Phlebotomy is one of the fastest-growing career fields in America right now. According to the U.S. government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs in this field is expected to grow by 27% from 2012 to 2022, as the Baby Boomer generation begins to retire and requires more and better medical care. Jobs for well-qualified candidates are plentiful and growing more so, but not every state is benefiting equally. It helps to know which states (and which companies) have the greatest demand.