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Phlebotomy Schools: How to Compare

phlebotomist withdrawing blood from patient's armChoosing the right phlebotomy school is a critical decision that can determine the likelihood of success in this exciting healthcare field.  You can decide on a certification program, which at generally under a year to complete is the fastest route to becoming a phlebotomist.  Or you can choose a more advanced two or four year degree program.  Once you have completed your education, you will probably want to become certified, although in most states it is not a requirement.  However, keep in mind that most employers prefer to hire certified technicians.  There are several certifying organizations, but three of the primary ones are:

    • American Medical Technologists (AMT)
    • American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)
    • National Healthcareer Association (NHA)

In some states, such as California and Nevada, you will be required to be certified to work as a phlebotomist.  And in few other states, again such as California, you are required to be licensed as well.  So it must be emphasized that it is important to choose a school that will give you the best chance for success as a certified and perhaps licensed phlebotomy technician in your state.  Before we explore some of the things you should look for in a certification course, lets briefly discuss what you will be doing with your new career.

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What is a Phlebotomist?

phlebotomist holding two blood samplesThe basic job description for phlebotomists or phlebotomy technicians, and primary job focus is to draw blood from patients.  Once the sample is collected, this healthcare professional transports it to the hospital lab or to an outside facility so that it can be analyzed for such things as disease and infections.  They can be called upon to collect samples from patients of all ages, from babies to the elderly.  They can work in all types of medical facilities, such as hospitals, clinics or nursing homes.  And depending on their base of practice, they may specialize in drawing blood from a specific type of patient.  For example, if working in a maternity ward they would regularly draw blood from mothers and their newborns.  If working in a nursing home, their duties would be limited to drawing blood from the senior patients.   In a hospital environment a phlebotomist would meet new people on a daily basis and service a wide range of patients.

What Does a Phlebotomist Do?

phlebotomist sorting blood samples in rackAs mentioned, a phlebotomist’s primary job focus is collecting blood samples.  They must do so with the utmost level of expertise and care due to the potential of being exposed to blood borne diseases or contaminants.   But their duties are a little more involved than just that single function.  Prior to collection, the phlebotomist must make sure that all instruments used are sterile and are single use only.  Once the sample is collected,   it must be labeled properly with patient information.  The proper paperwork must be completed to track the sample from collection through the lab screening process.  The sample is then delivered to the lab facility, either within the hospital where the patient is being treated or to an outside laboratory.   Some phlebotomists working within a lab have the added responsibility of ensuring that samples are analyzed properly by enforcing strict quality control.  And finally, in certain instances they may be required to train other phlebotomists to collect samples and properly follow up with the lab testing process.

Taking Phlebotomy Classes Online

female student attending phlebotomy school onlineFirst of all, you cannot receive your total training to be a phlebotomist online.  Much of the training is clinical or practical in nature and must take place either on campus or in an approved hospital environment.  But since the rest of the non-clinical course work can be accessed online, this option may be more convenient for some students.  And it can be a big advantage for those who are working or have family or other obligations to juggle as well.  Plus online schools are sometimes less expensive than traditional options.  Even ancillary expenses, such as commuting and text books can be reduced to some extent.  Between the extensive offline clinical training and the online courses, everything needed to achieve competency is provided.  But one warning, not all online schools are accredited, which is very important for certification and job placement.  So be sure to verify that any online training you are considering is accredited by one of the national phlebotomy accrediting agencies.  If you are disciplined and motivated enough to dedicate yourself to this style of learning, then obtaining your training online in conjunction with your practical training may be the right choice for you.

Narrowing your Phlebotomy Course Options

Now that you know what a phlebotomist is and what they do, let’s take a look at a general check list of items you should review for each potential school you are considering to help narrow down your phlebotomy school options.

Is the Phlebotomy Program Accredited?  It is important that the program you choose is accredited by one of the major national accrediting agencies, such as the National Phlebotomy Association.  Without accreditation, you will not be able to take the certification exam administered by one of the aforementioned certifying organizations.  Attending an accredited school also makes you more marketable and in higher demand once you are ready to begin your new career in the healthcare industry.

Is the Program State Specific?  Since each state has their own requirements, it is important to choose a program that meets the specific requirements in your state or the state where you plan to practice.  All states have different regulations regarding the minimum amount of practical experience required to work as a phlebotomist.  And some states require passing a State Board or Licensing exam to practice, which all have varying practical training requirements.

Does it Provide Adequate Training?  Any program you consider should provide at a minimum 40 hours of classroom instruction, although most require 120 hours, as well as 120 hours of practical training.  If the program you are considering falls short of these marks, especially for practical training, that may be reason enough to scratch that school off of your short list.

Is there a Job Placement Program?  The program you choose should have a successful job placement program for graduating students that on average has both a high and rapid placement rate.  The school should also have relationships with major healthcare networks as well.

What is the Reputation of the Program?  Unfortunately, due to little to no regulation in many states, not all phlebotomy programs are up to the mark.  Be sure to verify that the program you are considering has a solid reputation for success.  Contact some former students (ask the school for referrals if needed) or even some local practicing phlebotomists to find out what their opinion is of the program.  Since you already know to only consider accredited schools (remember, very important) check with the accrediting agency for its input.  The accreditation alone should be enough to guarantee that the program is well qualified.  But a little extra due diligence is always a good idea.

What is the Total Cost of Education?  Phlebotomy certification programs can vary in cost from state to state and the amount of classroom and clinical training provided.  Tuition is not the only cost of your education.  Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in your area.  Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as commuting, may be reduced.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule?  If you require certain class hours be available for your class schedule due to work or family obligations, be sure to find out if they are offered.  Also, if you are only free to attend weekend or evening classes, make sure that they are offered as well.   If you have decided to study online, you will still need to find out when practical training hours are offered.

Learn More About Becoming a Phlebotomist

Pick the Right Phlebotomist Training

Picking the right phlebotomy training program is very important for your success in the exciting field of healthcare.  As we have discussed, you can choose to take your classes either by attending a traditional brick and mortar school in person, or you can take your instructional classes online in your home in conjunction with your extensive practical training.  However you choose to receive your education, by following the previous guidelines, you will be better able to evaluate each school.  And by choosing the right one, you can achieve your career goal to become a phlebotomist.