A phlebotomist is someone who draws blood from patients, and then sends those collections to a laboratory for testing. These tests allow patients to receive accurate medical diagnoses.
Phlebotomists work in hospital complexes, medical laboratories, blood donation centers, physician’s offices, and other healthcare facilities. Depending on where they are employed, a phlebotomist’s schedule can vary greatly.
Some phlebotomists work standard 9-5 hours, while others may start very early in the day, or work overnight. Because phlebotomists are needed in so many different environments, they often have the flexibility to choose the schedules they like and pick up more hours as needed.
Curious what a typical day in the life of a phlebotomist looks like? Learn more about what phlebotomists do on a day-to-day basis and what skills are required for this career path.
Phlebotomists usually begin their shift by receiving orders for bloodwork. Depending on the type of laboratory or healthcare facility that you work in, these orders may come from physicians, various hospital departments, or even from the patients themselves.
It’s important for phlebotomists to be extremely organized and detail-oriented. Over the course of a day, you will interact with many different patients and healthcare professionals, collect and process countless specimens, and process a large number of orders.
In each case, you will need to know who the order is coming from, which patient needs their blood drawn, the amount of blood to collect, and where the sample needs to be sent. This bloodwork could be used to diagnose illnesses, or serve as a benchmark for treatments.
Drawing blood is the cornerstone of a phlebotomy career path. Phlebotomists draw blood from all types of people, for a wide variety of purposes—medical testing, transfusions, clinical research, blood donations, and more.
Performing a successful blood draw (also known as a venipuncture) involves multiple steps:
- Preparing the needles, collection tubes, wipes, bandages, and other supplies
- Keeping the work area and all supplies clean, organized, and sanitary
- Verifying the patient’s identity and other personal information
- Cleaning the patient’s skin before inserting the needle
- Applying a tourniquet to the patient’s arm and finding a suitable vein
- Puncturing the vein, collecting the blood, and accurately labeling it for processing
Many patients struggle with a crippling fear of needles and having their blood drawn. Some patients may have had painful or difficult bloodwork experiences in the past, or even suffered from adverse side effects like fainting. Young children and elderly patients may be especially reluctant to have their blood drawn.
As a phlebotomist, part of your job responsibility is to reassure and calm patients who feel anxious or afraid about having their blood drawn. The most successful phlebotomists have excellent people skills, good conversational abilities, and plenty of empathy for their patients.
You will also need to keep a watchful eye over your patients while you’re taking their blood, and react quickly if they begin feeling dizzy or faint.
Transport Specimens for Testing
Phlebotomists are not responsible for testing the blood, but they do need to ensure the specimens make it to the right place in a timely manner. All collections will need to be properly labeled, and then sent out for testing. Depending on the work environment, this may involve walking down the hall to another department, or transporting the specimen to a laboratory.
In either case, you can expect to spend a lot of time on your feet as a phlebotomist. Throughout the shift, you’ll be constantly moving between the waiting room, patient rooms, and lab. Many phlebotomists enjoy this aspect of the job, as they’d rather not spend all day sitting behind a desk.
Keep in mind, this is only a surface-level overview of what a day in the life of a phlebotomist looks like. In reality, no two days will ever be the same.