Phlebotomists Require Thick Skin

An Exciting Career in Phlebotomy

Phlebotomy Career

The lab is not exactly most patients’ favorite place to visit in the hospital. In fact, many associate the slip of paper their doctor hands them with an array of ordered blood tests, akin to being sent to the principal’s office for punishment.

For hospital inpatients, the familiar sight (sometimes right after waking up) of the phlebotomist with their handy kit of needles, vials, alcohol swabs and tourniquets is enough to make some hide under their covers.

Patients fear needles and therefore some of the most important qualities of a phlebotomist are patience, a calming demeanor and excellent interpersonal skills. Becoming a “good stick” (known in the field as a lab tech who hits the vein on the first try smoothly and nearly painlessly) takes experience, but at least if a new phlebotomist starts with a reassuring smile and a comforting touch, patients are apt to be more forgiving.

As a nurse, it took me more than a few IV starts to get the hang of it and I have nothing but sympathy for some of my early “victims.” The best I could do was smile and master the art of distraction through humor and good conversation.

Unlike nurses, many phlebotomists receive more on-the-job training than formal education and this can actually be more of a blessing than a curse. By shadowing, working alongside and learning the tricks of the trade from all those “good sticks” a new phlebotomist can learn a lot more in a shorter period of time than what a textbook can provide.

Some formal education is required, of course, including medical terminology, universal precautions and safety procedures, taking vital signs and basic anatomy. But, like so many other health care careers, sometimes the best school is the school of life.

The good news for aspiring “good sticks” is that phlebotomists and other lab technicians are in high demand by hospitals, urgent care clinics, blood and plasma donation centers, and many other settings. In a time of recession, the lucrative job opportunities awaiting phlebotomists make the prospect of sticking needles in squeamish patients an attractive job option to explore.


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