The term phlebotomy is an old term that Webster defines as the "letting of blood for the treatment of disease". Phlebotomy is one of the oldest medical procedures performed, as it was believed that withdrawing blood would return the body back to a healthy state. Today, the term used for the procedure of blood letting is "therapeutic phlebotomy" and is performed as the treatment of very few blood disorders while the general term "phlebotomy" is used for the procedure of drawing a blood sample for a laboratory test. Many laboratories have a specialized personnel called phlebotomists who are trained to draw blood samples and return them to the laboratory for analysis by the Medical Technologist or other analytical personnel
The phlebotomist is a very important part of the laboratory team. The first step in assuring results is obtaining a good and properly collected blood specimen. The phlebotomist has many things to consider when drawing a blood sample:
- Correctly identifying the patient.
- Correctly drawing the appropriate amount of blood and placing it into the correct preservative for the test being performed.
- Correctly labeling the blood specimen.
- Correct transportation of the blood specimen back to the laboratory:
- Does the specimen need to be transported on ice?
- Does the specimen need to be kept at body temperature?
- Does the specimen need to be kept at room temperature?
- Does the specimen need to be protected from light?
- Does the specimen need to be processed immediately?
A phlebotomist also must have other important skills and characteristics. A phlebotomist must be compassionate, have good communication skills, be dependable, be able to function in stressful situations, and be professional. Many phlebotomists also serve as a laboratory's secretary/data entry clerk and assist other laboratorians as needed.
Most phlebotomists learn their phlebotomy skills in the healthcare setting and are trained on the job. Those who wish to advance their skills can apply for certification from the American Society of Clinical Pathologist (ASCP) after 1 year of continuous experience. Certification involves classroom education, skills testing, and written testing.