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Duties of a Phlebotomist

by Bronwyn Timmons

Phlebotomy is the perfect career for anyone who wants to work in the medical field without needing to spend many years in college. Many phlebotomy courses are typically 150 to 230 hours in length and can be completed in a single semester. Of course, potential phlebotomists cannot be afraid of needles and blood cannot make them faint, as phlebotomists work with both on a daily basis. Phlebotomists work in hospitals, doctors' offices and blood donation sites.

Collection

One of a phlebotomist's main tasks is to collect blood specimens. Phlebotomists typically collect blood although they may also be asked to collect urine and fecal matter depending on the tests the physician wants to run. Whether in a hospital or at a collection station, proper collection methods must be followed to reduce the risk of contaminating the specimen. They must follow proper safety protocols to ensure there is no transmission of bodily fluids from the patient to themselves

Patient Care

While phlebotomists spend little time with patients, they must provide exceptional care while interacting with the patient. Keeping the patient calm, explaining what is happening and answering any questions honestly will result in a happy patient. An unhappy patient can make collecting specimens difficult if not downright impossible. As a medical professional in contact with a patient, they must be observant and report anything worrisome or suspicious to the doctor or nurse caring for the patient.

Preparing Specimens

Back in the laboratory a phlebotomist is responsible for correctly preparing specimens for testing. Blood specimens are spun in a centrifuge before being transferred to a laboratory technologist for testing. Other specimens are prepared according to the needs of the test requested by the physician. Proper handling of the specimens is vital to ensure no cross contamination occurs and to protect themselves from coming into contact with the patients' bodily fluids.

Paperwork

Phlebotomists must complete a great deal of paperwork. Before any tests begin, the phlebotomist must ensure the chain of custody paperwork is complete and correct or there is a chance the specimen could be contaminated. There is also the task of labeling and recording each specimen. Over time, most of the paperwork becomes second nature, but they must double check their work or risk telling a patient he has cancer when, in fact, he has strep throat.

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