How to Hire Phlebotomists: Job Skills
By: John Rossheim
Are you looking to hire phlebotomists? The fundamental responsibility of phlebotomy technicians are simple: to safely draw and enter blood into a laboratory system, with minimum patient upset. But to recruit top phlebotomists, you need to understand more about this multi-faceted profession. Here's the scoop.
Phlebotomist Licensing, Certifications and Training:
- In many states, phlebotomists must complete a post-secondary certification program before starting work; other states have no requirements
- Even in states with no mandated certification, most employers require it
- Phlebotomy training programs are offered by community colleges, vocational or technical schools, and some certifying organizations
- Certifications for phlebotomy technicians can be obtained from the American Society for Phlebotomy Technicians, the National Center for Competency Testing, the American Society for Clinical Pathology, and the American Medical Technologists
- Certification typically requires classroom training, clinical rotations and an exam
- Some employers encourage or mandate continuing education on topics such as venipuncture, universal health and safety precautions, specimen rejections, performing difficult draws, order of draw, problem-solving and communication, and legal issues.
- “Nearly all employers require certification or equivalent training,” says Phil Svehla, president of Phlebotek, a Florida staffing firm specializing in phlebotomy technicians.
- Training doesn't equate with certification. “There are phlebotomy training programs all over, but how good are they?” says Helen Maxwell, executive director of the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians. “There’s an unwritten law that employers prefer certification.”
How Phlebotomists Are Sourced:
- Employee referrals are a key source of phlebotomist candidates
- Clinical rotations offer providers the opportunity to try before they buy
- Job postings should be as specific as possible with regard to the work arrangement, location and care setting
- “Providers recruit through job postings, clinical rotations during training, and sometimes employers ask us for referrals—it’s through a variety of channels,” says Maxwell. “And the jobs are usually very quickly taken.”
Key Phlebotomist Job Skills:
- Draw blood from diverse patients populations, including children, elderly people and those with psychiatric diseases
- Reassure anxious patients and blood donors
- Maintain an organized work space and workflow
- Follow health and safety procedures to the letter
- Some phlebotomists may be called on to perform tests such as urinalysis for insurance applicants, electrocardiograms and point-of-care blood work
- “We like to see that candidates have confidence, they know what they’re doing, and they’re very caring, personable,” says Svehla. “When you’re about to hold out your arm for a stick, you want someone who makes you feel comfortable.”
- “For safety, you must follow procedures—for example, putting needles directly into the sharps container,” says Svehla.
- "They have to be organized,” says Maxwell. “Everything has to be done very meticulously. Our national exam has two parts, one written and one practical. More people fail the practical because, for example, they don’t check the patient’s identification.”
Key Phlebotomist Experience:
- Most employers seeks phlebotomists with a year or two of work experience
- Some providers want professionals with experience in a particular care setting
- Some employers prefer to train phlebotomists themselves, so they require no work experience
- “Probably 80 percent of employers want experience, typically at least a year,” says Maxwell.
- “The experience requirement for a given opening depends on the type of patient,” says Svehla. “In nursing homes, for example, there are usually difficult sticks and the interaction is often very challenging.”
How to Interview Phlebotomists:
- The interview is the best opportunity to assess the candidate’s way with people
- Communication skills and clinical knowledge should be tested face-to-face
- Probe the candidate for preferences about care setting: hospital, medical office, lab, home care, screening/mobile, blood donation center
- Determine the candidate's suitability for the work arrangement, whether it's permanent, part-time, contract, per diem, locum tenens, traveling or contract
- “Usually employers ask about work experience and training and certification,” says Maxwell. “They’re usually given a test [example] of about 50 questions—though it’s not standardized—covering topics from infection control to order of draw to legal aspects to professionalism.”
- “We ask about what types of patients they’ve drawn blood from, how many draws they’ve done,” says Svehla. “Some phlebotomists may draw from 50 people a day. With some of our client employers, the interviewers have the candidate draw blood.”