Phlebotomists draw blood from patients for testing or transfusion. Although skilled nurses, medical assistants, paramedics and laboratory scientists can draw blood as part of their jobs, the increasing size of the health care industry has created a new field for certified phlebotimists.
Phlebotomists used to learn their skills on the job, but now many take a short course or attend trade school for a year, where they study anatomy, circulation, the legal aspects of blood collection, how to interact with patients, and standard blood collection techniques. A medical or laboratory technician background is often helpful, and many medical assistants focus solely on phlebotomy.
Blood is usually collected from a vein on the arm in a procedure called venipuncture. Very small quantities are taken with fingersticks, and blood may be collected from infants by means of a heel stick. Specially trained phlebotomists collect arterial blood samples from the radial or ulnar arteries near the wrist.
Phlebotomists are certified after examination by agencies including the American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP), the American Medical Technologists (AMT), the American Association of Medical Personnel (AAMP), the National Credentialing Agency (NCA) and the National Phlebotomy Association (NPA). The NPA, the only association solely targeted to phlebotomists, has certified over 15,000 phlebotimists in all 50 states.