Phlebotomists collect blood for donation or so the blood can be analyzed in a clinical laboratory. Blood tests are used to diagnose illness, evaluate the effectiveness of medications, and determine whether a patient is receiving proper nutrition.
To collect blood from an arm vein, the phlebotomist first applies a tourniquet to the upper arm to slow blood flow. An alcohol swab is used to disinfect a small area near the inside of the elbow. The phlebotomist then locates a vein and inserts a needle, a process called “venipuncture.”
Phlebotomists can also sample blood through skin puncture, such as pricking a finger to test a patient’s blood sugar or determine blood type.
The phlebotomist must ensure that all equipment is properly sanitized before it is used to collect blood. Accurate labeling, proper storage and careful transport are also key responsibilities.
Misidentification or contamination of a blood sample can have serious consequences, because medical professionals rely on blood test results to diagnose patients and monitor treatment progress.
The phlebotomist also must observe strict safety protocols to avoid direct contact with the blood. Many infectious diseases, including HIV and hepatitis, can be transmitted through blood contact. Even the slightest distraction can lead to a “needlestick” injury and possible infection.