Phlebotomists collect blood for donation or for testing so the blood can be analyzed in a clinical laboratory. Blood tests are used to diagnose illness, evaluate the effectiveness of medications and determine whether a patient is receiving proper nutrition.
To collect blood from an arm vein, the phlebotomist first applies a tourniquet to the upper arm to slow blood flow. An alcohol swab is used to disinfect a small area near the inside of the elbow. The phlebotomist then locates a vein and inserts a needle, a process called “venipuncture.”
Phlebotomists can also sample blood through skin puncture, such as pricking a finger to test a patient’s blood sugar or determine blood type.
The phlebotomist must ensure that all equipment is properly sanitized before it is used to collect blood. Accurate labeling, proper storage and careful transport are also key responsibilities.
Misidentification or contamination of a blood sample can have serious consequences, because medical professionals rely on blood test results to diagnose patients and monitor treatment progress.
The phlebotomist also must observe strict safety protocols to avoid direct contact with the blood. Many infectious diseases, including HIV and hepatitis, can be transmitted through blood contact. Even the slightest distraction can lead to a “needlestick” injury and possible infection.
- Clinical Laboratories
- Community Health Centers
- Research labs
- Doctor’s Offices
- Blood Donation Centers
- Private clinics
- Pathology labs
- Other Health Care Facilities
What does a Phlebotomist do?
Phlebotomists draw blood for tests, transfusions, research, or blood donations. Some of them explain their work to patients and provide assistance if patients have adverse reactions after their blood is drawn.
Phlebotomists typically do the following:
- Draw blood from patients and blood donors
- Talk with patients and donors to help them feel less nervous about having their blood drawn
- Verify a patient’s or donor’s identity to ensure proper labeling of the blood
- Label the drawn blood for testing or processing
- Enter patient information into a database
- Assemble and maintain medical instruments such as needles, test tubes, and blood vials
Phlebotomists primarily draw blood, which is then used for different kinds of medical laboratory testing. In medical and diagnostic laboratories, patient interaction is often only with the phlebotomist. Because all blood samples look the same, phlebotomists must identify and label the sample they have drawn and enter it into a database. Some phlebotomists draw blood for other purposes, such as at blood drives where people donate blood. In order to avoid causing infection or other complications, phlebotomists must keep their work area and instruments clean and sanitary.
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