So you’re looking into phlebotomy as a career choice? That’s a great idea. With medical job opportunities growing as the general population ages, phlebotomists are finding job prospects to be very promising, indeed. But you can’t just walk into a hospital or clinic ‘off the street’ and declare yourself a phlebotomist; you’ll need training and, in some areas, specific certifications. And you want to find the best places to get these things, the places medical facilities trust to turn out quality graduates.
So where do you start?
Bloom Where You’re Planted
First of all, consider the area where you plan to practice. If that’s right in your home state or city, then check with your local medical certification sites and see what phlebotomists need to become certified and/or licensed to practice where you live. If where you want to work is further afield, of course, you’ll want to investigate that particular region’s specifics. As of this writing, in the US only California and Louisiana require both certification and a state license; that being said, requirements can change quickly, so be sure to ask.
As you’re doing your information gathering, don’t be afraid to ask your own physician or other medical practitioner about any phlebotomy schools that have a good reputation among his or her peers. Peer recommendations from people “in the trenches” go a long way toward helping you in your eventual job search. You don’t want to get what’s promised to be quality training at X school, only to find out that your local medical professionals don’t respect X school’s credentialing procedure!
A Plethora of Choices
Armed with a list of places that may NOT be where you want to be is half the battle; getting a list of places where you DO want to be is the next part. That’s not as easy as it might sound, however. The base requirement for beginning a phlebotomy career path is a high school diploma or GED. Beyond that base, however, options are wide and varied.
Part of this is due to there being four separate organizations that offer certification in phlebotomy:
- ASCP-BOC (Board of Certification), which certifies and tests myriad clinical and medical professionals
- NCCT, (National Center for Competency Testing), an independent certifying organization dealing with such positions as Medical Technicians, Medical Coders, and Phlebotomy Technicians
- AMT (American Medical Technologists), which certifies “excellence in Allied Health” professions
- NHA (National Healthcareer Association), which includes continuing education and certification portals through its Web page
And as if that’s not enough to cause your head to spin a bit, even within these accrediting bodies, there are different requirements for certification depending on your medical training and background. The ASCP-BOC alone has six different routes you can take to phlebotomy certification — and the others all have their own requirements for schooling, hours of practical lab experience, and quantity and quality of phlebotomy training. A tour through each organization’s Web site will lay out, in practical terms, what you’ll need to have “under your belt” to qualify to sit for the certification exam and be credentialed.
Where to Study phlebotomy?
Keep in mind that the educational process for phlebotomists isn’t quick: at the very least, you’ll be in school for a year or more. Thus, thinking about where you’ll spend that educational time will go a long way toward making your training process a pleasant one. According to one source, four of the top phlebotomy schools in the country are the University of Alaska, Anchorage; Sarasota County (FL) Technical Institute; Mountain State University in West Virginia; and Ferris State University in Michigan.
These schools are widely separated not only geographically but academically. In Alaska, for example, Phlebotomy falls under the category of an Occupational Endorsement Certification; Sarasota requires 180 hours’ classroom work, includes practice drawing actual blood samples, and offers its students training for certification from the American Society of Clinical Pathologists. Mountain State is known for its flexible training options, comprehensive study in anatomy and clinical lab science in addition to phlebotomy, and having its students practice on manikins before letting them loose on humans…while Ferris State offers its trainees a program under the auspices of the Clinical Science department, where you’ll take five courses that cover such areas as venipuncture and the physiology of blood flow.
…and that’s just the beginning.
Making Sense of It All
In conclusion, on the way to becoming a phlebotomist, you’ve got some “studying” to do — and that’s before you start your coursework! But if you can approach your training with some clear goals about where, and how, you want to practice in mind, you’ll be able to refine your choices considerably. Weigh your options until you find the perfect combination of education, practical experience, and certification opportunities to give yourself the optimum chance for success in this ever-growing — and rewarding — field.