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What is a Phlebotomist?

Few people probably know the term phlebotomist or phlebotomy technician, but it's the health care professional who draws blood, ensuring that the proper amount is taken and that all blood is properly labeled. Patients or blood donors may see a phlebotomist in a medical laboratory, a blood donor center or a doctor's office. Anyone who chooses this field has to be comfortable with blood, needles, databases, test tubes and blood vials. You'll draw blood, verify the patient's or blood donor's identity, label the blood and enter patient information into a database. You'll assemble and maintain equipment as well to prevent infections or other complications. Phlebotomists also tend to reassure nervous patients who don't like needles, and some of them will explain what they're doing for patients who are interested.

If you become a phlebotomist or phlebotomy technician, you'll likely spend your days in a hospital or laboratory, so be sure you're comfortable with medical environments where people may be uncertain or worried about their health. You'll work full time, and you may be expected to work nights, weekends and holidays. Lisa Scott, an assistant phlebotomy supervisor at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center who has been working in the field for more than 30 years, starts her mornings at 3 a.m. to get to work by 5 a.m. when she begins seeing patients. She may draw blood from as many as 150 patients a day. To ensure things go smoothly, Scott employs laughter to help the patient feel better. As she puts it, "There's a body attached to that arm."

If you enjoy working with people and are patient and compassionate, this could be the job for you. You won't necessarily make a lot of money, but Scott says the job can be "very rewarding" because you're helping people and you get to interact with a diverse group of patients. The average annual salary in 2016 was $33,750, and the projected growth for this field is 24 percent, with 30,000 new jobs to be filled through 2026, which is much faster than the average growth rate for all jobs. Health care reform, which will bring more patients into the health care system, should drive the demand for phlebotomists.

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