Phlebotomists collect blood samples for clinical laboratory testing or transfusion. They also assist in reducing workloads for doctors and nurses by focusing exclusively on the collection of blood specimens, particularly in hospitals. Phlebotomy is the act of drawing blood, and a skill employed by physicians, nurses, paramedics, researchers and laboratory scientists across a wide range of allied health care fields, in both the public and private sectors.
Phlebotomist is a term derived from two Greek words φλέψ (phleps) meaning a vein, and τομός (tomia) which means cutting. Phlebotomists may comprise of specialised laboratory technicians, clinical support workers, or assistant healthcare scientists who are qualified to collect blood specimens from patients for examination, the results of which may provide valuable information for diagnosing blood disorders and illness.
Phlebotomists are trained to draw blood from veins by performing venipuncture. Others are specially trained to collect arterial blood samples from the brachial artery in the antecubital fossa, an area in the bend of the arm, or from the radial artery of the wrist or kateva. For the collection of minute quantities of blood, fingersticks are used, and from infants by means of a heelstick. Phlebotomists are required to have a high level on manual dexterity and be able to manipulate small objects, needles and collection tubes.
The laboratory analysis of blood specimens have multiple clinical purposes. Blood samples are used to assist in accurate diagnosis, monitoring therapy, and assessing therapeutic effects of treatment. The primary function of a Phlebotomist is to safely and reliably collect blood specimens for laboratory analysis. Diagnostic laboratory tests are used to identify and determine the extent of abnormalities present in diseased states. Although Phlebotomists are involved in the preanalytical phases of laboratory blood testing, their role is not to interpret test results or offer personal opinions on diagnosis or treatment of patients.
Phlebotomists follow a number of organisational policies which include infection control, prevention of needlestick injury, fire and safety procedures, and a dress code. Phlebotomy certification is legally required in the UK, but is mandatory in only two states of the USA. Health care is a rapidly expanding industry and created a new para-medical discipline for a certified professional. Phlebotomists work in a wide variety of settings including hospitals, GP clinics, mobile healthcare units, donor collection, and in patients own homes. Depending upon the organisation they work for, Phlebotomists may be required to travel to nursing homes or outpatient clinics to collect blood specimens.