Mention phlebotomy to someone and the response you are likely to get is a questioning look that says, “what is phlebotomy“. The word is derived from the Greek word phleb, which means vein, and the word tomy, which refers to the process of cutting or puncturing. Therefore the most accurate definition of phlebotomy is that it is a process of puncturing veins.
In previous eras, phlebotomy often referred to the popular practice of letting of blood, or the removal of blood from the body (often by the use of blood-sucking leeches). This was done in order to cure certain illnesses, but this practice is no longer used today. However, phlebotomy has come in modern times to refer to any removal of blood from the body. Usually, blood is taken in order for laboratory tests to be done on the specimen to determine the effects of an illness or reach a diagnosis. Phlebotomy is also known as venipuncture.
What is a phlebotomy procedure?
The procedure of phlebotomy usually involves a trained health professional inserting a small needle into a vein or artery in your arm, and withdrawing the necessary volume of blood with a syringe or directly into a blood specimen tube. Usually, a tourniquet will be applied to your arm above the site of the venipuncture, to help the veins to become more prominent so that the blood can be drawn more easily. There is generally a little discomfort during the procedure, but it only lasts a few seconds and there is usually no lasting damage to the patient once the procedure has been done.
What is a phlebotomist?
The name of a person trained to collect a blood specimen is a phlebotomist. Most health professionals have some training and experience in phlebotomy, and so a phlebotomist could be referring to a doctor, nurse or a specialist phlebotomy technician.
A phlebotomy technician is a person who is not necessarily a doctor or a nurse, but has completed training and certification in the skill of phlebotomy. Phlebotomists are often employed in hospitals or clinics in addition to other health professionals, and have the responsibility of drawing blood from any patients that need blood samples taken. Phlebotomists also assist in taking care of a patient by making good records in the patient’s folder and taking care of the samples that have been taken. By taking on these responsibilities, a phlebotomist can take a lot of pressure off the other health professionals in the health service and can allow the health system to run smoothly and efficiently. It is therefore an important and valuable career in today’s health care industry.
In order to be certified as a phlebotomy technician, a training course in phlebotomy needs to be completed at an accredited technical college. These courses can be anything from a single semester to a whole year course, and include training in anatomy and physiology, with a lot of practical experience in phlebotomy techniques. Once the course has been completed, the student will have to pass an exam to become certified by a certification board, for example the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians in the United States. Certification may not be a requirement in all countries, but most good hospitals or clinics require some form of certification before phlebotomists are able to take blood from patients.
Completing the proper training and passing a phlebotomy certification exam from a national certifying agency will land you right in the middle of the world of phlebotomy. And, the next time someone asks “what is phlebotomy”, you will be the answer to the question.