A Quick Guide to What Phlebotomy Is

For some people, it’s scary and unpleasant. And for others, it’s a beautiful life force that keeps our bodies going. What are we talking about?

Blood, of course!

Not everyone can handle talking about blood, let alone drawing blood from other people. But phlebotomy professionals around the world do this every day. If you’ve never thought about what their jobs might be like, now’s the time to get curious.

Phlebotomy is more than just a super-technical medical procedure. It’s also a process that can have a lot of fear and emotion involved. Patients have a wide range of responses when it comes to the blood under their skin.

So if you want to know the answers to your burning questions about phlebotomy, and you’re not scared of a little blood, read on.

What Is Phlebotomy?

Phlebotomy is a big word for a simple, common procedure: a blood draw. A trained healthcare professional will draw a small vial of blood from a patient’s arm. That blood is then taken to a lab for testing.

Often, this is a medical procedure for the patient’s sake. Sometimes, this could happen as part of a research study where the person undergoing the phlebotomy is a paid participant.

How Does the Process Go?

From the patient’s point of view, the process can start even before entering the doctor’s office, health clinic, or hospital. To prepare for a smooth process, it’s a good idea to drink some water and grab a snack if you’re hungry.

This isn’t just to make sure you feel good (though hopefully, it will do that as well). Being hydrated will help the phlebotomist locate your blood vessels more easily, and if you get lightheaded or even pass out from thinking about blood, being well-fed will help you stay conscious.

A typical phlebotomy process will take blood from your arm, and it shouldn’t hurt much or take very long. If you’re nervous, remember that the person performing your phlebotomy is used to seeing all kinds of patients, and they can help you get through it calmly. The whole thing will likely be over sooner than you think.

When Would You Need a Phlebotomy?

There are several common reasons why you might need to undergo this process. In fact, you’ve likely already gone through it!

Have you ever had to get a small blood test to determine the cause of an illness or check your health? Even if you didn’t know the name for it at the name, this was a phlebotomy procedure.

Sometimes patients go through something called therapeutic phlebotomy, where the focus is on letting some blood out of your body rather than collecting the blood for analysis or diagnosis. This may sound unscientific, but it’s a real procedure for certain conditions, like genetic mutations that affect blood cell production.

If you’ve gone through phlebotomy before and don’t remember needing to lose some blood for medical reasons, you probably went through regular phlebotomy, where a small amount of blood is taken for study.

And if you’ve given blood before, like at a blood donation drive, you’ve gone through something similar to phlebotomy. There is a bit of a difference, though. Blood donation often takes longer than typical phlebotomy and takes more blood from your body.

What Is Phlebotomy Training Like?

If you’re interested in learning these skills, you could train to become a phlebotomist or phlebotomy technician. And if you like the idea of helping people and being part of the healthcare field but get squeamish around blood, you might want to learn more about similar jobs, like a nursing assistant.

To become a phlebotomist, you need to be comfortable around blood. After all, it’s the main part of the job!

A phlebotomy training program can take a year or less, and there are also certifications that some employers or states will require. All in all, though, it’s a good deal shorter in terms of training than many other healthcare professions.

But there’s a lot to learn in that time. Phlebotomy is a specialized job, and the year or so of training will be focused on growing expertise in the main skill: drawing blood. This includes medical training, anatomy lessons, and even ethics.

Do Phlebotomists Just Draw Blood All Day?

You might’ve been surprised to learn that there’s an entire job called ‘phlebotomist’ or ‘phlebotomy technician.’ The phlebotomy process sounds like a useful skill, but having that as your only job task would be overwhelming.

Fortunately for phlebotomists, the job does have quite a bit of variety. Aside from drawing blood, phlebotomists have the crucial job of keeping track of every piece of data they have on the blood. Mixing up a sample could be disastrous!

Phlebotomists also need to have a good amount of empathy and people skills. Part of their job is to help frightened people through the process and take care of patients who react badly to the procedure.

For example, some people pass out at the sight of blood. If someone like this has to undergo a phlebotomy procedure, the phlebotomist will have to make sure they’re okay before, during, and after the phlebotomy.

Now You Know!

Next time you tell your friends about a blood draw you got at the local clinic, you can impress them by calling it phlebotomy—and explaining that you prepared for the process by staying hydrated beforehand. And if you’re at all interested in joining the profession, take the initiative to learn how you can get there!

Not everyone can do this job, so if you think you have the technical precision and people skills to do it well, here’s your chance to use your potential in a way that helps patients.

And if you want to read more about the behind-the-scenes magic of everyday occurrences, check out the rest of our website!