What is a Phlebotomist?

What Exactly is a Phlebotomist?

Upon hearing the word phlebotomist for the first time you probably thought to yourself “What is a Phlebotomist?” The job is one that is not nearly as well advertised as that of a doctor, nurse or medical assistant. A phlebotomist is an integral piece of the health care system in hospitals, clinics and laboratories. It is a specialized technician whose primary job is to draw blood (venipuncture). That is not all that phlebotomists do though. Other tasks include the analysis of blood using medical equipment to produce results for physicians and patients.

What is Phlebotomy?

Phlebotomy Specimens
Taking specimen samples are a big part of what a phlebotomist does.

Phlebotomy translates into the extraction of blood. This is typically done using a variety of methods. The most common is venipuncture. Venipuncture is simply the extraction of blood using intravenous techniques. That means the blood is taken from veins. The most common areas to extract blood from are the inner arm or the back of the hand. In some cases blood must be drawn from other areas or with other methods.

Duties of a Phlebotomist

Phlebotomists work in a variety of roles. Some phlebotomists are only responsible for drawing blood. Other phlebotomists are able to perform additional tasks and perform like a medical assistant. Phlebotomists commonly are cross trained as an EKG. Typically the more skills a phlebotomist has the more job opportunities are available.

Lab Testing

Some phlebotomists work in laboratory settings. These phlebotomists are known as medical laboratory technician. There are several programs that teach students not only to draw blood but also to perform the analysis of the specimens. A medical laboratory technician needs to know how to use the various equipment and handle specimens in a safe manner.


One of the important keys to being a phlebotomist is safety. The job involves working with specimens that are drawn from patients. These specimens may contain a variety of diseases and blood borne pathogens. A phlebotomist must be careful when handling equipment like needles to prevent accidental needle sticks.

Venipuncture, Skin puncture, Capillaries

There are a variety of different ways phlebotomists can draw blood. The most common is the needlestick of a vein known as venipuncture. A skin puncture is also known as a dermal puncture and usually involves extracting a smaller specimen sample. The last is what is known as a capillary puncture. Capillary punctures typical occur on the finger or heel. Not all phlebotomists will be licensed for all of these types of draws. In California there are various levels of licensing that allow phlebotomists to perform certain kind of blood draws listed above.

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