‘There is an increased demand for Phlebotomists with both population growth and the development of new types of tests.’

What is Phlebotomy?
Phlebotomy is a procedure that removes blood from the body. Phlebotomists are medical professionals who draw blood from patients for various laboratory tests and procedures (they are taught to handle blood very carefully because of its potential as a biohazard). Phlebotomists assist surgeons, general practitioners, and blood drives, and are active in nearly every category of medical work.

Phlebotomists must follow strict health and safety procedures, including wearing disposable gloves, when taking and handling blood samples and usually need to have a Hepatitis B immunisation. Phlebotomy is also referred to as venepuncture, and regular phlebotomy treats people who have too much iron in their blood. Due to the variety of needs for blood collection, Phlebotomists find work in all manner of medicine-related practices and usually work in a hospital, blood donation, or outpatient clinical setting.

Training to become a Phlebotomist
Phlebotomy is taught in a wide range of settings, including community colleges and teaching hospitals. No specific qualifications a required to train as a Phlebotomist, but some employers may look for GCSEs in subjects such as English, maths and a science.

Phlebotomy is an important part of diagnosing, treating and managing illnesses, as well as developing new medical breakthroughs. However, becoming a Phlebotomist can be difficult, with very few training opportunities for beginners, or even for experienced staff, and well trained Phlebotomists are in great demand.

On-the-job training can take up to six months and includes:

  • the role of phlebotomy within the pathology department
  • the importance of professional standards and codes of practice methods of blood collection and labelling
  • choosing appropriate sites for taking blood samples (venepuncture)
  • health and safety

On completion of training a Certificate of Competence is awarded, which allows a Phlebotomist to work without supervision.

Employers may encourage staff to work towards qualifications, such as the Level 2/3 Diploma in Clinical Healthcare Support or the Level 3 Diploma in Blood Donor Support; and also the participation of short courses with the National Association of Phlebotomists, for example in paediatric phlebotomy.

Duties of the Phlebotomist include:

  • explaining the procedure to patients
  • reassuring patients if they are nervous or distressed
  • inserting a hypodermic needle into the vein and drawing off the blood into a tube
  • applying a dressing to the puncture made by the needle
  • labelling the blood sample
  • delivering the sample to the correct laboratory within required timescales
  • completing records and entering data on a computer.

Other duties that a Phlebotomist might perform can include:

  • Measuring blood pressure, respiration rates, and pulse
  • Administering injections
  • Inserting intravenous lines

Job Prospects
New diagnostic techniques, clinical laboratory technology and automated instruments have greatly increased the volume of - and demand for - medical laboratory testing and the employment of clinical laboratory workers, including phlebotomy technicians, is expected to grow as the volume of laboratory tests increases with both population growth and the development of new types of tests.

Phlebotomy is often regarded as an excellent stepping-stone into other careers in health care. Nurses and many other medical staff generally have training in phlebotomy, and in fact many students who intend to go on to become professional doctors may start in a hospital or medical facility working as a Phlebotomist.

There is a shortage of skilled Phlebotomists particularly in London.

Employment & Promotion
Employment is mainly in hospitals, either on wards or in outpatient clinics and most jobs are within the NHS and also in the private healthcare sector.

With experience it is possible to progress to team leader or manager, an alternative option would be to train for another biomedical science job, for example in cervical screening, haematology or immunology. Skills and experience in phlebotomy could give a person an advantage if they want to go into donor care and work with the NHS Blood and Transplant Service.

Full-time Phlebotomists can earn approximately £21,000 a year and £10 – 15 per hour.

More information:
National Association of Phlebotomists: www.phlebotomy.org