Phlebotomists collect blood specimens from patients to be analyzed for
the presence or absence of disease. Often, phlebotomists also collect samples
for processing into blood products. They run genetic tests like paternity
Most blood is obtained by venipuncture. That's when blood is drawn from
a vein in the arm. Small amounts of capillary blood from the fingers or babies'
heels can also be used. This procedure is called micropuncture.
Phlebotomists also have some clerical duties in patient reception and computer
data entry. Many work in hospitals and private labs, but others work in large
clinics and health maintenance organizations (HMOs).
On a busy day, medical laboratory assistants may interact with over 100
patients and collect blood from 50 patients. Larger private labs have over
250 patients come through in a day.
With an ever-increasing squeeze on health-care dollars, these people must
be able to work quickly and accurately.
Their hours and other working conditions vary according to the size and
type of employment setting.
In large hospitals or independent laboratories that operate continuously,
phlebotomists work the day, evening or night shift. They may have to come
in on weekends and holidays. Laboratory assistants in small facilities may
work on rotating rather than regular shifts.
In some facilities, medical laboratory assistants are on call. That means
they're available in case of an emergency, several nights a week or on weekends.
Laboratories usually have good lighting and are clean. However, certain
specimens sometimes produce unpleasant odors. Phlebotomists also spend a lot
of time on their feet.
Medical laboratory assistants are at risk of exposure to HIV and HBV (hepatitis
B), but the risk is minimal when proper precautions are followed.
Many people in this field are hired on a casual or part-time basis. Part-time
work may eventually lead to full-time work.
Often, phlebotomists are the laboratory personnel who convey the image
of the laboratory to patients. They have to be highly professional in appearance
Good language and communication skills are required, since misunderstandings
can lead to improper specimens and, in extreme cases, to injury and death.
Phlebotomists -- or medical laboratory assistants -- also need to have
excellent motor skills, self-confidence and an ability to work well under
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Draw and analyze blood
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