10 Best ASCP Certification Programs

Medical laboratory professionals are key members of the health care team concerned with the study and practice of diagnostic medicine by delivering accurate patient test results. These important members include medical laboratory technicians (MLT) and clinical laboratory technicians, also referred to as clinical laboratory scientists (CLS). These healthcare professionals are trained to perform tests in such areas as urinalysis, chemistry, microbiology, hematology, immunology, and immunohematology (or blood banking) just to name a few.

Medical laboratory technicians and clinical laboratory scientists work in a variety of settings such as doctors' offices, clinics, hospitals, research and reference laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, and state and government agencies. The results from these laboratory tests help physicians to treat and diagnose patient illness. To become an MLT or CLS certification from the American Society of Clinical Pathology, also known as ASCP certification, is required.

What is an ASCP Certification?

 Certification

The ASCP is a professional organization for pathologists, pathologist assistants, and laboratory professionals, specifically medical laboratory technicians and medical laboratory scientists (or clinical laboratory scientist), that offers education and certification for members of the medical laboratory profession. In states such as California and New York, ASCP certification qualifies laboratory professionals to get a state license. Most ASCP certification requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree, however, some technicians such as a medical laboratory technician (MLT) require an associate degree, while laboratory assistants require only a high school diploma.

The ASCP offers over twenty professional certifications and membership for pathologists, pathologist assistants, and medical laboratory professionals. Certification is required to work as a medical laboratory technician or a medical laboratory scientist in a laboratory setting. ASCP certification shows that an individual has the knowledge, skills, and experience to work safely in the medical laboratory.

How Long Does It Take to Become Certified?

Although certification requirements vary by category, all categories include a combination of education, training, and clinical experience. ASCP certification is valid for three years. Maintenance requirements vary according to the different certifications, however, all ASCP certification requires yearly continuing education and practice hours. The ASCP certification is offered in the following categories:

Technician Certification

ASCP certification for professional technicians includes phlebotomy technician, histotechnician, medical laboratory technician, and donor phlebotomy technician. Phlebotomy technicians require a high school diploma and completion of a phlebotomy training program while other technicians require a minimum of 60 post-secondary education credits or the completion of an associate degree. Completion of an associate degree must include coursework in chemistry and biology to be eligible for ASCP certification.

Technologist Certification

ASCP certification for technologists includes medical laboratory scientist, molecular biology, histotechnician, blood banking, chemistry, hematology, microbiology, cytotechnologist, and cytogenetics. Individuals must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in chemistry or biology and experience in a clinical laboratory.  

Specialist Certification

Specialty ASCP certification includes a pathologist's assistant, laboratory safety, chemistry, microbiology, hematology, cytotechnology, and immunohematology, also known as blood banking. To get specialty ASCP certification a bachelor's degree is required in combination with other certifications. Holding a graduate degree while also having experience in a clinical laboratory setting qualifies an individual for specialty ASCP certification.

Diplomate Certification

To get diplomat certification, an individual must have experience in all aspects of laboratory management including finance, human resources, operations, and management. To be eligible for diplomate ASCP certification a post-secondary degree and laboratory management experience are also required. The minimum requirement is a bachelor's degree with four years of experience and multiple laboratory certifications, however, a graduate degree is often preferred.

International Certification

International ASCP certification offers credentials regardless of the individual's physical location in the world but varies based on regional location. Certification options allow an international designation for various laboratory professionals that includes medical technologist, phlebotomy technician, medical laboratory technician, molecular biology technologist, and gynecologic cytology technologists. 

10 Best ASCP Certification Programs

Finding the right accredited post-secondary degree to fulfill the requirements for ASCP certification can be daunting. We have provided the 10 best schooling programs for medical laboratory science and medical laboratory technology.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Whether you are looking to become a clinical laboratory scientist (CLS) or achieve a higher degree, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers degree programs allowing one to earn a bachelor's degree as a medical laboratory scientist or a master's degree as a specialized technologist in the molecular science diagnostic (MDS) program. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a large university in a small city. Both clinical laboratory programs are accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS), a requirement for ASCP certification.

University of Washington

University of Washington

According to an evaluation of medical programs in 2016, the University of Washington ranked eighth in research and first in primary care. The Seattle campus offers two NAACLS-accredited clinical laboratory technology/technologist programs including a bachelor of Science in medical technology (MT). The medical technology program is divided into two halves and takes four years to complete. The first half includes prerequisites and general education while the second half focuses on professional coursework where students gain clinical experience in one of the fourteen university-affiliated clinical laboratories.  

University of Cincinnati

University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati offers two clinical laboratory technology/technologist programs. Besides a campus-based program, University of Cincinnati also offers an online program for individuals who have an associate degree with a clinical or medical laboratory focus who wish to further pursue a bachelor's degree. It is a large university in a large city. The bachelor's degree in medical laboratory science (MLS) has a focus on courses in science and concludes with a required clinical year that lasts for three semesters. The UC MLS program is approved by NAACLS.

Ohio State University

Ohio State University

Ranked number 33 in a medical research evaluation, the Ohio State University offers a bachelor's and master's program in medical technology. It is a large university in a large city. Undergraduates enrolled in the medical laboratory science program receive a Bachelor of Science in health and rehabilitation science upon successful completion. Students pursuing a Master of Science in medical laboratory science follow a 3-year program making them eligible for certification. Both laboratory programs are approved by NAACLS.

Michigan State University

Michigan State University

The Michigan State University offers two clinical laboratory technology/technologist programs in biomedical laboratory science and medical laboratory science. It is a large university in a small city. A clinical internship is required for the completion of both programs. Both programs are accredited by NAACLS.

University of California-Davis

University of California-Davis

UC-Davis offers one clinical laboratory technology/technologist program. It is a large university within a small suburb. Although it offers only one program, it boasts a 4-year bachelors-level nuclear medicine technologist program as a joint venture with the Oregon Institute of Technology. The program is accredited by NAACLS.

University of North Dakota

University of North Dakota

The University of North Dakota is considered possessing one of the largest programs in the nation, offering four clinical laboratory technology/technologist programs. It is a large university in a small city. They offer a traditional 4-year bachelor's degree, a bachelor program designed for those who already have a bachelor's degree in another field, a medical laboratory technician to medical laboratory scientist program (which are offered both on campus and online), and categorical certificates in areas such as clinical chemistry, hematology, microbiology, and blood banking. All programs are accredited by NAACLS.

University of Texas at Austin

University of Texas at Austin

The University of Texas at Austin offers one clinical laboratory technology/technologist program. It is a large university in a large city. Students enrolled in this degree program take three years of undergraduate coursework in the medical laboratory field serving as preparation for clinical training in the fourth year. The program is accredited by NAACLS.

University of Connecticut

University of Connecticut

The University of Connecticut offers one clinical laboratory technology/technologist program. It is a large university in a large city. Besides a medical laboratory program, a medical laboratory science post-baccalaureate certificate is available for individuals who hold a degree in biology, chemistry, molecular biology, or a related field. The program is accredited by NAACLS.

Arkansas State University

Arkansas State University

Arkansas State University offers two clinical laboratory technology/technologist programs. It is a large university in a small town. Students can earn an associate of applied science in clinical laboratory science or a Bachelor of Science in clinical laboratory science. Both programs as accredited by NAACLS.

Conclusion

Medical laboratory technicians and medical laboratory scientists are key healthcare professionals who perform laboratory testing. To pursue a career in the medical laboratory science field you can expect to take many science-focused classes including biology, microbiology, chemistry, math, and anatomy and physiology to scratch the surface. You can also expect to get ASCP certification to work in a doctor's office, clinics, hospitals, and in research and reference laboratories, as this is a requirement for these healthcare positions. To get ASCP certification, a bachelor's degree is required, however in the case of the medical laboratory technician, an associate degree is all that is needed. Certification is valid for three years and requires ongoing yearly continuing education to remain active. ASCP certification is key to a rewarding career in medical laboratory science.

How To Draw Blood: Step By Step Guide

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

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

medical kit

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

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

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

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

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.

Phlebotomy Technician Certification

Phlebotomy technician certification is necessary in many states as a condition of employment. Phlebotomy technicians may work in hospitals, physicians' offices or labs. They are responsible for drawing blood, educating patients and data intake. Not all states require certification, but these requirements may change from one year to the next. As a rule, it is best to receive formal training and gain certification to maximize employment possibilities.

How To Become Certified

The first step is to check state requirements for phlebotomy technicians. Some states require a course to last for a certain number of hours or to include specific topics in the curriculum. If this is the case, it is necessary to take an approved course before seeking certification. In some states, people may choose to take a short course and take the exam independently if there are no strict requirements. When it comes time to take the certification exam, contact the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians to find testing locations and dates. The CPT exam is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

Preparing For The Exam

Test fees vary from one year to the next. While it is considerably less expensive than many other types of medical career tests, it is still enough of an investment that it is important to put a thorough effort into passing. There are study guides and materials that can be purchased online to help students prepare, and there are also practice test questions. The agencies offering the exam usually provide these materials, and some schools may offer them to students who are enrolled in phlebotomy technology programs for reduced prices.

It is best to reserve a testing date as far in advance as possible. People who are enrolled in phlebotomy programs can usually work with their guidance counselors or instructors to find testing dates that work for them. Certification means more job opportunities and better pay. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts this to be a growing job field during the next decade, so this is optimistic news for people interested in becoming phlebotomy technicians.