About Emma Campbell

I am a director at the Phlebotomy Training Institute

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Great Tips On How To Draw Blood

If you’re a nursing student or are studying to be a phlebotomist, you’ll need to be prepared to perform vital tasks, one of which is drawing blood. Phlebotomists are responsible for taking blood samples. But what if you’re a nurse and a sample needs to be taken right away, but the phlebotomist isn’t available? You need to know how to draw blood.

You may be surprised to learn that drawing blood, also called venipuncture, is not a standard procedure taught to nursing students. Why? Some hospitals deem it too risky to have nurses practice drawing blood. Because of this, they suggest that they go elsewhere to learn how to draw blood.

While it may not be part of your regular training, knowing how to safely draw blood can be crucial if a blood sample needs to be obtained quickly. A blood sample is required for most tests, which means it can be difficult to arrive at an accurate diagnosis without first drawing blood and testing it in the lab.

If you want to know how to draw blood, you can’t learn just by reading about it or watching demonstrations. It requires practical experience and training. Before you can practice drawing blood, it’s important to get a baseline understanding so that you’ll know what to expect. Follow safety procedures carefully, and you should have no trouble with this routine process. 

Finding The Vein

injecting arm

Before you can learn how to draw blood, you’ll need to learn how to find the vein. When drawing blood from an adult, try to identify the median cubital vein. This is a large vein that should be easy to draw from. It’s located between the bicep and forearm, also known as the cubital fossa. The median cubital vein is usually chosen because it poses little risk of damage to nerves or arteries.

In some patients, the median cubital vein may be visible just under the skin. However, each individual is different, and sometimes locating a vein can be more difficult. Nicotine can constrict veins, so if your patient is a smoker or any type of nicotine user, this might make the task more difficult.

Caffeine can also constrict veins, which is a common challenge when drawing blood early in the morning. Intravenous drug use causes veins to collapse, making many veins like the median cubital nonviable for drawing blood. In addition, some people have naturally smaller veins or mobile veins which roll instead of remaining stationary.

How To Draw Blood Safely

blood in phlebotomist hands

If you want to know how to draw blood, you need to be prepared for everything which might present a challenge. Consult a map of the circulatory system if you need help. You might feel out of your depth if you’re inexperienced with drawing blood. If you don’t feel you can go on, then you should ask for a more experienced phlebotomist to step in.

Before you begin, check for any signs of scarring from previous needle punctures, hematomas, or blood clots. If for some reason you can’t draw a sample from the median cubital vein, you can opt instead for the basilic vein, but know that this means a higher risk of accidental injury to a nerve or artery. If you patient has just undergone a blood transfusion, a surgical procedure, or has an infected wound on one arm, draw blood from the opposite arm instead.  

Gathering The Supplies

phlebotomist supplies

You might already have the supplies you need if you’ve got a medical kit handy. If not, you’ll gather the supplies you’ll need. This should be a simple matter if you have access to the medical supplies available in any hospital storeroom.

You’ll need disposable rubber gloves for your protection, biohazard bags which won’t leak, and a bag which won't puncture for you to dispose of sharp needles. These items are for your protection and safety. If, for any reason, you experience a leak or tear with any of the above items, stop the procedure immediately. Do not touch blood with your bare hands for any reason.  

You’ll need blood collection tubes, specimen labels, and the proper laboratory forms. The labels ensure that once the samples are drawn, they can be processed correctly by the lab tech staff. Without properly labeling your specimens they are likely to get lost among the hundreds of other samples, and a mislabeled specimen will cause confusion and might result in a misdiagnosis.

A tourniquet, gauze, and alcohol swabs will all be needed, as will adhesive bandages. It’s a good idea to have enough of these supplies to exceed the need, just in case you need more than you expected. Just be sure to return any clean, unused materials to the storeroom when you’re finished.

Finally, you’ll need needles and a device to transfer the blood into your collection tubes. Handle your needles carefully.  

Drawing The Blood

taking blood in arms

If you haven’t sterilized them already before you start it’s a good time to wash your hands to ensure that you don’t accidentally facilitate the spread of infection. This crucial step can save lives and prevent undue suffering to patients who might otherwise be exposed to bacteria present in hospitals and other medical facilities. When you’re done, apply your latex gloves.

With your materials collected and your patient ready, consult your forms to confirm that the test has been ordered by a doctor. When you’re ready to begin, speak with the patient you’ll be drawing blood from. Remember that this procedure might be frightening for them even if it’s routine for you.

Ask questions about the patient’s medical history. Are they aware of any allergies they might have to latex? Are they currently taking blood-thinning medications? Do they have a family history of hemophilia that they know about? Get as much information as possible to avoid a complication or issue arising from drawing blood.

Getting Started

blood in syringe

Once you’ve asked questions to reduce risk factors, tell the patient what you’ll be doing step by step as you go along. Make sure they’re informed of what you’re doing. This will help put them at ease and move the process along.

Instruct the patient to hyperextend their arm, then take the tourniquet and wrap it 3-4 inches above the cubital fossa if you plan to draw from the median cubital vein. You should wait no more than two minutes before beginning the blood draw. Ask the patient if they’re experiencing pain, numbness or tingling. Watch to make sure that the vein doesn’t change color.

So long as everything appears normal, and the patient isn’t feeling any unusual discomfort, you can proceed. The patient should make and hold a fist. It isn’t necessary to do this repeatedly. Holding a fist is sufficient. Tap the vein with your finger to dilate it, then take your alcohol swab and sterilize the area around the planned injection site.

Starting The Blood Draw

phlebotomist drawing blood in patient

With one hand, take your needle. Hold the patient’s arm below the injection site with your other hand. Hold the skin firmly to make sure that vein doesn’t move as you insert the needle through the skin and into the vein. This should be done at a 15- to a 30-degree angle.

If you’ve successfully punctured the vein, you’ll see blood appear in the catheter. Attach the collection tube and watch to make sure that blood begins flowing at a slow, even pace. When the collection tube has been filled, you can remove the tourniquet and withdraw the needle.

Quickly take your gauze and press down on the injection site. Wrap a bandage around the gauze to hold it in place. Take the used needle and place it carefully into your biohazard disposal receptacle. Remove your gloves and dispose of these as well. Be sure to label all your specimens carefully before depositing them in the lab.

Conclusion

blood donor

Knowing how to draw blood is something that all sorts of medical professionals will be called upon to do at one point or another. If you’ve never done it before, the process can be intimidating. The important thing is to pay attention, follow all safety procedures to the letter, take it step by step and get as much practice as possible before attempting to draw blood from a patient on your own.

If possible, look for opportunities for hands-on training from in your area. Courses in venipuncture are available in nursing colleges and medical universities. Seek them out if venipuncture isn’t part of your regular coursework.

Prospective employers, especially those in intensive care wards, want to be assured that you know how to draw blood. So do your patients. The more practice you have, the better chance you’ll have of anticipating problems before they arise. Even if you’re diligently paying attention to every detail, the unexpected can still derail you.

Any phlebotomist will admit that drawing blood requires intuition as well as preparation. With experience, you’ll gain the confidence to proceed with a venipuncture procedure even if you have difficulty finding a vein in the patient’s arm. But until you’re prepared, it’s a good idea to practice with easier blood draws. Now you know how to draw blood practice, practice, practice.

5 Highest Paying Phlebotomy Jobs

Whether you're looking to start your career or switch paths toward something new and fresh, job stability is always the main concern. And when it comes to job stability, nothing compares to working in the medical field. No matter where you live - in the heart of a thriving metropolis, in a quiet suburb on the outskirts of town, or off the beaten path somewhere in rural America, there will always be clinics, doctors' offices and hospitals nearby that need to be staffed. While there are plenty of opportunities for doctors and nurses, you may be surprised at the number of phlebotomy jobs available right in your area.

When most people think of working in the medical field, one of the first things that come to mind is the years of intense schooling that are required to become a doctor or registered nurse. But there are plenty of other careers in the medical field that offer flexibility, job security, and opportunities for advancement without requiring an advanced degree. In fact, most phlebotomy jobs require an associate's degree or less, with some entry positions that can be started with as little as a high school diploma and brief training course.

5 Highest Paying Phlebotomy Jobs

phlebotomist

Phlebotomy is a branch of the medical field that is always in demand. Phlebotomists can be found in all kinds of medical facilities, including donation centers, hospitals, and clinics, and often travel to nursing facilities and private homes to collect samples. While a phlebotomist's earning potential isn't as high as that of a registered nurse, the ease of entry into the field and opportunities for advancement make working as a phlebotomist an attractive opportunity for those who desire to work directly with patients in the medical field.

What is a Phlebotomist?

​Quite simply, a phlebotomist draws blood for use in medical analysis, donation, and transfusions. Chances are you've already encountered a phlebotomist at some point in your life. If you've ever donated blood or had to draw blood for a lab test at the hospital, a phlebotomist is a person who performs the blood draw. While a registered nurse is able to draw blood, most larger facilities and many smaller ones leave the collection to phlebotomy specialists who are trained specifically to draw blood.

Some phlebotomy jobs go beyond collection and entail analyzing samples for eligibility for donation or to prepare reports for lab tests to be given over to the doctor handling a patient's case. The further you go into the field of phlebotomy, the more training and schooling you will need.

Education & Certification

education

​Depending on which of the many phlebotomy jobs you are thinking about pursuing, your education can range anywhere from less than a year to a two-year associate's degree. 

All phlebotomists will receive training in the following areas:

  • ​anatomy
  • ​venipuncture (that is, finding a vein for a blood draw and inserting a needle for the draw)
  • ​specimen handling and labeling
  • ​lab procedures and safety

​All phlebotomy training programs also include a period of hands-on experience drawing blood and handling specimens. This will usually take up about the second half of your time in a given program.

Some states only require completion of a phlebotomy training program while most others require phlebotomists to become certified. Certification usually entails further schooling after the initial training program. When choosing a phlebotomy training program, it is important to consider your individual state's requirements and to consider whether you are planning to move to another area in the foreseeable future.

One last aspect of your education to consider is accreditation. Make sure when entering a program that the school you are attending is accredited. Unaccredited schools may have lower tuition, but most employers will not accept a certificate from a school that isn't accredited.

5 of The Highest Paying Positions

​Pay for phlebotomy jobs varies widely depending on the area you work in, your experience, and the type of work you are doing. While it may be difficult to pin down just what type of salary, you can expect as a phlebotomist, most analyzes suggest that introductory pay for a phlebotomy specialist tends to be around the $15/hour range, which translates to around $31,000 per year at full-time employment. In contrast, a hematology technician with several years' experience in the phlebotomy field can expect to earn over $60,000 per year.

1

Phlebotomy Specialist

Phlebotomy Specialist

​When you think of phlebotomy jobs, you're likely thinking of a phlebotomy specialist. The specialist is the person in the hospital or donation site who does the work of drawing blood. Completing your training as a phlebotomy specialist will lay the groundwork for other jobs in the field. Advancement from this point can require anywhere from 1 to 10 years of experience, depending on your area of the market, and what you want to do.

​2

​Medical Lab Technician

medical technician

​As a medical lab technician, you will not be focusing on drawing blood, but rather on analyzing the specimens that have been drawn by others in the field (likely a phlebotomy specialist). A career as a medical lab technician will require additional training, much of it has to do with the proper recording and documentation. You will also have to learn about different blood types and how they interact since you may work with blood that will be used for transfusions. Knowledge of the different kinds of machinery and lab equipment used in the storage, transportation, and analysis of blood samples, as well as samples of other bodily fluids, will also be part of your training.

​3

​Traveling Phlebotomist

travel bus

​​​​If being stuck in one environment isn't appealing to you, working as a traveling phlebotomist may be the perfect opportunity. As a traveling phlebotomist, you will spend your days going to different sites that need someone to draw blood but don't have the volume of work that would require an on-site phlebotomy specialist. You may go to nursing homes, clinics, blood drives, or to individual patients' homes to draw blood. In these situations, you will usually be working under the direct supervision of the RN assigned to that site. This option offers great flexibility as you gain the experience required for advancement into other positions.

​4

​Donor Phlebotomy Specialist

blood donor

​If working directly with patients on a more personal level appeals to you, a career as a donor phlebotomy specialist could be right up your alley. Donor specialists work with potential donors at sites such as Red Cross donation centers to determine whether the potential donor is eligible to participate. You will go through the potential donor's medical history and background and draw an initial sample to analyze, in addition to assisting with the actual donation process.

One of the best aspects of this job is that the training and education required is minimal. A high school diploma and the completion of a phlebotomy training course are the only requirements for this position in most areas.

​5

​Hematology Technologist

test

​Becoming a hematology technologist is a step up from most other jobs in phlebotomy. The position requires an associate's degree and will usually require previous experience in one of the other phlebotomist positions. A hematology technologist not only draws blood but also uses computer software to analyze samples for any abnormalities or blood-borne diseases.

Advancement

​​Once you've begun a job in phlebotomy, most likely as a phlebotomy specialist, donor phlebotomy specialist, or traveling phlebotomist, you're already on your way to career advancement. Experience in your field is your best asset when looking for a pay raise or a promotion to a more lucrative position. Many jobs in the medical field require experience in a professional medical setting, so don't rule out other technical careers once you've accumulated some experience as a phlebotomist.

If you decide to pursue further education in order to advance to a hematology specialist or another position related to the medical field, always ask your employer about tuition reimbursement opportunities. Many facilities, including hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes, will offer partial or even full tuition reimbursement if you are pursuing a degree related to the medical field.

​Conclusion

Considering the wide range of phlebotomy jobs available, working as a phlebotomist is an excellent way to get into the medical field, either as a career unto itself or a stepping stone into a variety of other medical-related positions. Opportunities in the medical field continue to grow, and phlebotomy opportunities are no exception. We've all heard about the demand that the aging baby boomer generation is placing on every aspect of the medical field, but growing global populations and medical advances that continue to extend lifespans also help to ensure that these jobs will remain in demand, irrespective of other aspects of the economy.

Phlebotomy jobs offer competitive pay along with retirement and health benefits, opportunities for advancement both within the field or into other medical-related careers, and the opportunity to work in a wide variety of settings. If you're looking for a career in the medical field without having to spend years and thousands of dollars on an advanced degree, a job in phlebotomy may be the right job for you.

Phlebotomist Salary Guide

The Phlebotomist Salary Guide states that the average phlebotomist working in the United States is between $20,469 and $43,908 including a bonus of up to $2,750 and a profit share of $2,000. If the phlebotomist works for hourly wages, they earn $10.37 to $18.41 per hour with overtime increasing to $12.79 to $27.31. The phlebotomist salary averages out to $14.15 per hour for those with less than 20 years’ experience.  Higher pay is possible when combined with knowledge and experience in medical terminology.

The Benefits Of Becoming A Phlebotomist In Today's World

drawing blood

The phlebotomist salary depends on the knowledge and skill needed to draw blood from patients [primarily from veins] for laboratory research, transfusions, donations, and screenings. Phlebotomist perform venipunctures or finger sticks to collect blood and sometimes such as with babies; they perform a heel stick.  

Typical routine duties of the phlebotomist can include:

  • Accurate patient identification
  • Test interpretation
  • Discerning proper equipment and collection tube additives
  • Precise and accurate explanations of procedures to patients
  • Patient prep
  • Correctly practicing aseptic techniques
  • Practicing standard and universal precautions
  • Performing the skin/vein puncture
  • Withdrawing blood into containers or tubes
  • Apply restorative techniques to the puncture site
  • Communicating post-puncture care to patients
  • Carrying out a doctor's requisition orders
  • Labeling collection tubes with corresponding labels
  • Delivering collected specimens to a lab

Educated nurses, surgical technicians, medical assistants, and other medical personnel also perform phlebotomy.  It is not uncommon for a student in this field to proceed on to becoming an MD.  The phlebotomist salary is contingent upon education, training and experience-the basic steps to success.

Before drawing blood, they must verify the patient’s identity. This is critically important.  The phlebotomist must then organize the equipment they’ll be using in the scheduled procedure and continue with the proper hand washing techniques followed by putting on gloves.  

Gloves protect the phlebotomist against contracting diseases present in the patient’s blood.  Now you’re ready to draw blood.  Have the patient place their arm, palm up, on a flat surface so that the table supports the arm giving you good access to the patient’s vein.  Once the vein is ready, the phlebotomist applies a tourniquet above the elbow a few inches above the infusion site.  At this point ask your patient to make and hold a fist.

Employers base the phlebotomist salary on procedural efficiency and professional empathy.  Many people are nervous about blood and needles.  You’ll help to ease your patient’s anxiety by conducting yourself in a calm, reassuring manner.  Though the steps are small, they are very important to the health and well-being of the patient.  Now that your patient has a fist made, clean the site using an alcohol pad before you insert the needle.  At the first sign of blood, remove the tourniquet and have the patient relax by opening their fist.  When all the requested samples are complete, remove the needle and place gauze over the puncture site.  Immediately label and store the blood sample and discard all the contaminated materials used during the procedure including gauze, needles, and tubes.

As a practicing phlebotomist, your job also includes determining if your patient is anemic, has a cardiac condition, or is underweight for their age group. These factors may negatively affect the blood-drawing procedure or result in the patient fainting.  Drawing a patient’s blood is an essential component of any medical screening or procedure.  Diagnosis of the problem is the most valuable step in making sure they’re given the proper treatment.  Phlebotomy is an integral role in identifying abnormalities in the patient’s blood work leading to disease or future health problems. It’s the phlebotomist’s duty to deal with the patient in a sincere, attentive way; helping them feel secure and calm in order that the doctor can best do his or her job.

Factors That Affect Phlebotomist Salary

Phlebotomy Specialist

A phlebotomist can get national certification through different organizations.  

If you plan to work in the United States, there are 4 states that require phlebotomists to pass state certification:

  • California
  • Nevada
  • Washington
  • Louisiana

In the state of California, they only recognize and accept national certificates from the following agencies:

  • American Certification Agency (ACA)
  • American Medical Technologists (AMT)
  • American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)
  • National Center for Competency Testing/Multi-skilled Medical Certification Institute (NCCT/MMCI)
  • National Credentialing Agency (NCA)
  • National Health career Association (NHA)
  • National Phlebotomy Certification Examination (NPCE)

Applicants must meet certain criteria to qualify to take an examination.  Candidates must finish a complete a course on phlebotomy and furnish documented proof of clinical or laboratory experience.

  • Quest Diagnostics                                                                  $32,718 
  • Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp)        $32,117
  • LabCorp of America                                                              $31,926    
  • Quest Diagnostics, Inc.                                                       $36,183          
  • Grifols, Inc                                                                               $25,529   
  • American Red Cross Blood Services                              $31,388           
  • American Red Cross                                                             $27,697                
  • Quest, Inc.                                                                                $32,473    
  • Path Group, Inc.                                                                    $31,416      
  • Clinical Pathology Laboratories, Inc.                          $31,179

Phlebotomist Salary Ranges

hands money

The phlebotomist salary averages out to $14.15 per hour for those with less than 20 years’ experience. Higher pay is possible when combined with knowledge and experience in medical terminology so that the doctor can help the patient.  There are many considerations before guaranteeing a specific salary. Traditionally, it is not the highest-paying job. However, it can be a catalyst in medicine; a virtual "stepping-stone" to get a foot in the door and still earn a salary while completing nursing school for example.  

Another benefit in becoming a phlebotomist is the shorter time it requires completing a phlebotomy certification course. Entry-level phlebotomists with certification and little experience can expect to earn about $7 per hour.  Location is an additional factor in determining a phlebotomist’s salary along with the facility you work in, and your work experience. Always remember, the bigger the city-the higher the pay.  Privately owned facilities and large medical conglomerates traditionally pay higher wages. Experience is the key to a higher your salary.  More experience on the job translates to more trust, less supervision, proper training, and reliability.

Best Paying Cities for Phlebotomists

Redding, California

$49,870

Vallejo, California

$49,180

Santa Maria, California

$47,520

San Francisco

$46,380

Oakland, California

$45,920

The Highest Mean Salaries for Phlebotomists Are

California

$41,360

Alaska

$40,670

District of Columbia

$40,600

Rhode Island

$39,160

Connecticut

$39,110

The world’s first phlebotomist practiced techniques using leeches and bloodletting to extract “disease” from the body.  Bloodletting traditionally treated patients suffering from a serious medical condition or as a preventative process including removing toxins from the body and balancing the humors, i.e., Hippocratic medicine comprises four humors: black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood with each one corresponding to one of the traditional four temperaments:

  • Sanguine (enthusiastic, active, and social)
  • Choleric (short-tempered, fast, or irritable)
  • Melancholic (analytical, wise, and quiet)
  • Phlegmatic (relaxed and peaceful)

Based on Hippocratic medicine, society believed these four humors should be in alignment according to its strength and amount to have a healthy body. Hippocrates lived in the year 460 BC.  The world considers him the father of medicine to this day.  Since then the phlebotomist is a respected and necessary field of medicine with the phlebotomist salary averaging between $30,000-$35,000/per year plus benefits. Interested candidates who work as a phlebotomist must be able to work around blood.  It is the nature of the business.  You must also know how to handle needles, computer databases, various test tubes and the additives inside them and vials of blood.

You will spend many of your days working with people who don't feel well needing you to be compassionate yet professional.  You draw blood, authenticate your patient's or blood donor's identity, correctly label the vial and enter patient information into a database. You can expect to put together and maintain certain medical devices to prevent infecting patients.  

Phlebotomist are there to do the critical and essential jobs the doctors need to administer care and treatment for their patients.  The career phlebotomist or phlebotomy technician can look forward to spending their shifts in hospitals and laboratories-so make certain you're comfortable working inside medical institutions and offices.  They may ask you to work nights, weekends and when there are emergencies.  

If you are someone who enjoys working with people and find yourself intrigued by the medical profession, by all means, consider a career start in phlebotomy. You won't be making a huge salary, but it is a rewarding job because you're assisting doctors and helping people.  It's also a fact that your chances of finding work will stay good no matter where in the world you live in due to the health needs of aging seniors.  

You can look forward to steadying employment, benefits, and salary that expects to increase with experience and skill.  The average yearly salary in 2016 for the phlebotomist was $33,750.  The projected growth in phlebotomy is 24 percent, with 30,000 new jobs available through the year 2026; much faster than the average growth rate for all jobs.  Healthcare reform, the aging population, and state-of-the-art technology will attract an increased number of patients into the health care system, making more employment opportunities for the phlebotomist.