Complete Guide to Phlebotomy Certification Online
Online phlebotomy degrees will prepare graduates to withdraw blood safely and swiftly for medical examination. In order for students to gain necessary hands-on experience, all online programs will have some in-person requirements, but these can generally be completed at a local facility for the student. Due to the variety of needs for blood collection services, phlebotomists can find work in all manner of medicine-related practices. They assist surgeons, general practitioners, and blood drives, and are active in nearly every other category of medical work.
Enrolling in an accredited phlebotomy training program can mean the difference between a below-average learning experience and an exemplary education. High-quality programs in this field are formally recognized by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). Be sure to check whether your prospective program meets or exceeds accepted academic standards before enrolling. Read More
Comprehensive List of Schools for an Online Phlebotomy Degree (1)
Overview of Available Online Phlebotomy Certification Programs
Phlebotomy is typically considered a career specialization for medical assistants or laboratory technicians and does not contain any strongly delineated specializations within its own practice. There are varied techniques within phlebotomy such as venipuncture, the drawing of blood from veins, and finger stick withdrawal, which is the drawing of blood by pricking the tip of fingers. Phlebotomists will typically be trained in all common types of blood withdrawal.
A basic certificate in phlebotomy will provide an entry-level education and will introduce students to the full set of practices involved in phlebotomy and prepare them to withdraw blood. Programs like this may be well suited for physicians who practice in another area and wish to become highly competent blood drawers, as well as students looking to add to their job readiness by picking up a trade.
Most certificate programs in phlebotomy take less than one year to complete at vocational schools or technical colleges. Some of them require the completion of internships along with gaining knowledge on fundamental theories and practices in the field. Coursework usually involves medical terminology, venous anatomy, healthcare law, safety procedures, professionalism in medical settings, medical communications, and healthcare ethics.
Associate degree programs can be obtained at community colleges and train students to become licensed phlebotomists. Students delve deeper into details related to blood-drawing practices, and they also learn how to deal with various issues in the medical setting, such as the individual needs of patients and the protocol for working closely with other healthcare personnel. Besides classes that are covered in a certificate program, the associate degree program is also comprised of some chemistry, biology, mathematics, and microbiology courses.
Since internships and clinical laboratory are usually part of a phlebotomy program, online students will need to complete some of the program requirements on campus or in a clinical facility. Individuals who want to enroll in a certificate or associate program must have a high school diploma or GED; they may also be required to undergo drug screening and submit immunization records. A criminal background check and the purchase of malpractice insurance may be requested as well.
Most certificate programs in phlebotomy take 6 to 12 months to complete, depending on the location. Students must be high school graduates and commit to fulfilling between 15 and 30 credit hours. Many programs also require candidates to undergo drug screenings and pass a criminal background check.
Certificate programs in phlebotomy teach students how to collect specimens from patients. They also learn how to effectively interact with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare personnel. Students explore several topics, such as safety precautions and medical terminology. Additionally, students will become familiar with identifying the correct areas on patients' bodies to draw fluid samples from. Common courses include allied health ethics, biology, pharmacology, anatomy, and physiology.
Professionals with certificates in phlebotomy work as entry-level workers in blood banks, hospitals, research centers, and private medical offices. Payscale indicates the salaries for phlebotomists can range between $20,383 and $36,937 annually, depending on their employer, location, and level of experience. Those who want to advance in the profession may wish to consider earning an associate or bachelor's degree.
Online associate degrees in phlebotomy prepare students for entry-level careers in the field of medical laboratory technology. Much of the training emphasis is on laboratory medicine fundamentals and technical procedures. Prerequisites may include basic computers, biology, chemistry, English, general psychology, and technical writing. Students are required to complete 69 to 74 credits, which takes two years.
The curriculum comprises didactic education, laboratory skills, and clinical practice. Courses are drawn from the liberal arts and sciences. Areas covered by the curriculum include anatomy and physiology, clinical chemistry, clinical microbiology, cultural diversity in healthcare, health professions management, health profession skills, immunohematology, immunology and blood banking, hematology and coagulation, laboratory medicine techniques, molecular diagnostic techniques, parasitology and mycology, pathophysiology, phlebotomy procedures, technical writing, and urinalysis. Students are also required to complete a medical laboratory technology practicum to develop practical skills.
Program graduates may take up various positions in clinical laboratory settings. Areas of practice for graduates include clinical chemistry, hematology, immunohematology, microbiology, molecular diagnostics, and serology. Hospitals and clinical laboratories offer the greatest employment opportunities for graduates. Other work settings include environmental laboratories, industrial laboratories, public health agencies, research facilities, and veterinary laboratories. Job titles for associate degree graduates include medical laboratory technician, pathology research assistant, phlebotomist, and quality control assistant.
Prospective phlebotomy students are encouraged to select a certificate or associate program from an accredited school. Accreditation is a comprehensive evaluation process that schools may elect to go through to demonstrate that they meet established standards and can provide students with a high-quality education. Accreditation is also a requirement for students who plan to transfer their earned credits to other accredited institutions or apply for federal financial assistance.
Regional or national accreditation is granted by several different independent agencies that are recognized by the US Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. The agencies carefully evaluate schools based on their curricula, faculty members, student resources, research programs, and more. Programmatic accreditation is also available for individual phlebotomy degree programs by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). For more information about accreditation, please visit Guide to Online Schools' accreditation hub.
Because of the variety of areas in which phlebotomists practice their craft, the options for certification and education in phlebotomy are equally varied. Individual states, hospitals, and practices all have different standards for what constitutes sufficient training in order to work in the field of phlebotomy. The majority of institutions will accept certification from one of the many entities that provide phlebotomy examinations. Because certification and licensing regulations vary from state to state, prospective phlebotomy students should contact their state's board of health to learn about their particular licensing requirements.
Various associations offer certification for phlebotomists, but the certification programs can vary in quality; it's important to research each one before making a commitment of time and money. Each association has its own eligibility guidelines, but most of them require that applicants have a certain level of education and professional experience. The Center for Phlebotomy Education outlines the following requirements to help phlebotomists identify a worthy certification agency:
- Agencies should be in good standing with the Better Business Bureau.
- Agencies should have earned recognition for engaging in ethical business practices.
- Agencies should utilize instructional materials and exams that adhere to standards established by the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI).
- Certification procedures should involve assessment through an exam.
- National recognition is important.
Some of the major examination providers include American Certification Agency for Healthcare Professionals, American Medical Technologists, American Society for Clinical Pathology, American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians, National Center for Competency Testing, and National Health Career Association.
Community colleges, vocational schools, and specialized programs at medical schools offer phlebotomy courses and programs and can provide students with proper training. A typical phlebotomy class will have both coursework and a clinical component, while the clinical phase of the program will be completed in a hospital or a community clinic. Students will first practice the correct procedures for drawing blood using mannequins before moving on to working with actual patients. Students will be scheduled to work various shifts to gain practical experience drawing blood from patients of different ages and who are ill, injured, or intoxicated.
The courses required during a phlebotomy program will typically include the following topics:
- Accuracy in patient care, requisitions, and identifying the patient
- Anatomy and physiology of the body systems
- Appropriate disposal of sharps and waste
- Basic infection control and standard precautions
- Basic laboratory values including hematology, chemistry, and microbiology
- Blood collection equipment, tube types, additives, and the proper order of draw
- Case studies and role playing
- Hospital epidemiology
- Medical terminology
- Skin puncture site selection, technique, and post-puncture procedures
- Skin punctures and newborn screens
- Special considerations and hazards of complications
- Directory of Phlebotomy Certification Agencies. Center for Phlebotomy Education. Accessed December 2, 2014. http://www.phlebotomy.com/Certification-Agencies.cpe.
- Medical Phlebotomist Salary (United States). Payscale. Updated September 3, 2014. http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Medical_Phlebotomist/Hourly_Rate.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published January 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-and-clinical-laboratory-technologists-and-technicians.htm.
- Programmatic Accrediting Organizations 2014-2015. CHEA. Accessed December 2, 2014. http://www.chea.org/Directories/special.asp.