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A Day in the Life of a Phlebotomist

Apr 08, 2010

A phlebotomist is a type of clinical laboratory technician who is specially trained to take blood samples. As a phlebotomist you could work in a hospital setting, at a clinic, care home, or even travel from patient to patient as part of a mobile blood drawing service.

Depending on where you work you may have a regular day shift, but if you work in a hospital or urgent care center you may have the same types of shifts as nurses. This means that you will have a few day shifts, a day or two off, and then a few night shifts. Phlebotomists may work full time or part time, or they may be on call as needed.

Phlebotomists who work a normal day shift usually start very early – around five or six o’clock in the morning. This gives them time to check on any previous blood samples and prepare their cart for the day. The cart contains all the supplies they need for different types of blood drawings, so they can save time by not having to return to their station between taking samples.

In the morning you will be given a list of patients who need their blood drawn, as ordered by the physicians the night before. In many cases, these patients may have not been able to eat since the previous night, in order to prepare them for the test. Each patient will have a separate request slip, as well as stickers to place on the vials so the lab knows who they belong to.

Before meeting the patient you will usually have to check with the nursing station on that floor to ensure that the patient’s status has not changed since the test was ordered. In many cases you may have to interrupt the patient’s sleep to take the test, so you may have to deal with a few grumpy people – but it’s all for the greater good. Phlebotomists usually have a pretty good bedside manner and excel at putting the patient at ease.

Some people who are older or have certain medical conditions may have a hard time giving you blood, as their veins are not easily accessible. In this case you may need a nurse’s assistance to help draw blood. Most of the time you’ll be just fine on your own. Throughout your day you may get to work with kids, pregnant moms, new babies, post-surgery patients, and more.

Once you have made all your blood collections for the morning, you will take the samples down to the lab, where the vials will be placed in a centrifuge to separate the plasma from the blood. Each vial will then be arranged by the type of test that is to be performed on it. Then you get to refill your cart, take a break if you have time, and start all over again!

As a phlebotomist you may also be periodically called on to help with blood transfusions for critical patients. You will be responsible for ensuring that the new blood is cross-matched with the patient’s blood type, and that your tray has the necessary equipment to set up a transfusion.

Being a phlebotomist requires a good attention to detail, as many people are depending on your skills to take their blood and safely deliver it to the lab. You also get a chance to interact with many different kinds of people throughout your day, and make a real difference in their lives. As long as the sight of blood doesn’t make you faint, this could be a great new career for you!

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