Medical Lab Technology and Science

How to Become a Phlebotomist

Blog—Phlebotomy Training Program (August 2023)

How to Become a Phlebotomist? There are many ways to enter the healthcare career field. When choosing a role to pursue, you are probably considering how much training or education is required, and how long it will take before you can start working in the field.

One role that is growing, vital, and a perfect, fast foot-in-the-door is Phlebotomy. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects 10% job growth in Phlebotomy between 2021-2031 with 21,500 job openings expected annually across the country.

The path to becoming a phlebotomist can be completed in about 18 weeks. At completion, you’ll have the skills and training necessary to enter an in-demand field. And with an education from Northwestern Health Sciences University (NWHSU), you’ll be confident in your ability to perform important work.

Here, we’re answering your biggest questions about phlebotomy, and how it can help jump start your career in healthcare.

What does a phlebotomist do?

The main role of a phlebotomist is to perform blood draws. Specifically, phlebotomists:  

  • Collect blood specimens for laboratory testing, transfusions, research, or blood donation. 
  • Collect and inventory samples of other bodily fluids.
  • Complete waived tests.

Where do phlebotomists work?

Because blood exams are increasingly important and widely used, phlebotomists work with patients of all ages in a variety of settings. As a phlebotomist, you might work in a hospitals, doctor’s office or clinic, or blood draw center. Blood draws are growing in popularity, and some phlebotomists are now finding opportunities to collect specimens in patients’ homes.

Wherever they work, phlebotomists are a critical part of the care team and have meaningful patient contact.

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Why are phlebotomists important?

Lab results are responsible for 70% of health care diagnoses, and blood draws are critical to many lab tests.

“Phlebotomists are the starting point of successful medical laboratory functions,” explained Audrey Anderson, MS, MLS, NWHSU’s Medical Laboratory Technology/ Medical Laboratory Science Program Chair. “The preparation of the patient, collection and processing of the specimen, and the correct storage and documentation of the specimen is vital for the laboratory professionals to be able to diagnosis disease. That initial work is all the work of the phlebotomist.”

What training do I need to become a phlebotomist?

At NWHSU, students preparing to become phlebotomists can complete the Phlebotomy Training Program. The training program includes:

  • Hematology/Introduction to Phlebotomy (MLT-1070). This 15-week course introduces you to blood collection and specimen processing and handling. You’ll study patient confidentiality, patient and employee safety, testing requirements, and laboratory regulations as well as point of care testing. This course is generally offered every other term.
  • 100-Hour Clinical Training Course. You will complete this training over 13 days. You’ll practice and improve the proper technique to be a successful phlebotomist. You will collect, handle, and transport samples to the lab for testing, and conduct simple tests with quality checks.

After finishing the course and clinical practice, you’ll be ready to take a national phlebotomy board exam.

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How can I grow my career after starting in phlebotomy?

Many healthcare professionals start their careers as phlebotomists, then decide on their next step. Working in phlebotomy gives you a front row seat to the other job opportunities in health care.

“I have seen countless professionals in my experience that have started their careers in phlebotomy and then continue their studies to get deeper into fields including nursing, lab technology, lab science, and other healthcare roles,” said Anderson. “Phlebotomists see several facets of the healthcare field so they can decide if they want to grow into something else or simply make a career of phlebotomy.”

At NWHSU, you can use the three credits from MLT-1070 and the 100-hour clinical experience for a Medical Laboratory Technology degree. Once that associate degree is completed, graduates can continue their education to earn a Bachelor of Science in Medical Laboratory ScienceThe pathway to a career in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease is mapped out for someone who desires a senior role in a laboratory setting. And it can all start while the professional is earning an income as a phlebotomist,” explains Audrey Anderson.

The Phlebotomy Training Program is also an ideal launching pad for people who already work in hospitals and clinics. Specifically, for those who want to move into a more patient-centered and healthcare role. Professionals in food service, orderlies, porters, and assistants may find that Phlebotomy could expand their career options in healthcare.

What pre-reqs do I need to start the phlebotomy program?

To start the NWHSU Phlebotomy Training Program, you will need a high school degree or General Educational Development diploma (GED). To have clinical experience, you must have a GPA of 2.0 or higher, meet all qualifications, and pass a background check.