To become a certified phlebotomist, there are two routes for phlebotomists to complete necessary training to join the workforce:
- Attend a phlebotomy school: Complete phlebotomy classes at an accredited phlebotomy school in your state
- Find On-The-Job Phlebotomy Training: Complete in-person training through a healthcare employer
On-the-job training (OJT) in phlebotomy offers numerous advantages, but it’s not without its challenges. We’ll outline some key differences between on-the-job phlebotomy training and what you’d experience at a traditional phlebotomy school, how to find on-the-job training opportunities, and how to make the most of on-the-job training.
Differences between traditional phlebotomy classes and on-the-job training
While On-the-job training and formal phlebotomy education programs share the same end goal of preparing individuals for a career in phlebotomy, they differ in several key ways:
Traditional phlebotomy school
- Online or in-person classes make up the majority of education. The majority of phlebotomy programs offer clinical experience at a healthcare facility, but in some cases clinical hours are optional or not offered.
- The curriculum is set up to meet phlebotomy certification requirements and prepare students to pass the certification exam.
- Some schools offer free classes (usually through non-profit organizations like Goodwill’s career development services) but the majority are not free.
- It’s relatively easy to find phlebotomy classes.
On the job training
- Classes may be offered, however the majority of learning is completed through demonstrations and clinical experience.
- Obtaining certification may or may not be a primary goal of on-the-job training. It may also not meet the phlebotomy licensing requirements of your specific state (especially if you live in California).
- The employer almost always pays for phlebotomy education for their employees.
- On-the-job training opportunities are generally harder to find than traditional classes.
Pros and Cons of On-The-Job Training
On-the-job training in phlebotomy offers a unique approach to gaining the necessary skills and experience for this critical healthcare profession. Like any educational path, it has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
Pros of On-The-Job Training:
- Paid Learning: Unlike traditional education programs, where you might incur tuition fees and associated costs, On-the-job training often provides a salary or hourly wage, allowing you to earn while you learn.
- Hands-On Learning: On-the-job training provides a hands-on learning experience, allowing aspiring phlebotomists to develop practical skills in real healthcare settings. This hands-on experience is invaluable for building confidence and competence.
- Immediate Entry into the Workforce: On-the-job training typically allows individuals to start working in the field sooner than formal education programs. This can be especially appealing if you are eager to begin your phlebotomy career quickly.
- Networking Opportunities: During On-the-job training , you have the opportunity to build valuable relationships and network with experienced phlebotomists, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. These connections can be instrumental in advancing your career.
- No Student Debt: Since On-the-job training programs are often paid positions, you can earn a salary while you learn, making it a cost-effective option compared to traditional education, which may incur student loans.
Cons of On-The-Job Training:
- Varied Quality: The quality of On-the-job training programs can vary, as they depend on the institution or healthcare facility providing the training. Some programs may be more structured and comprehensive than others.
- Less Formal Education: On-the-job training may not provide the same level of formal education and theory that you’d receive in a traditional phlebotomy education program. There are many different types of phlebotomy certifications – some require completing training through a phlebotomy school.
- Dependence on the Employer: Your ability to access On-the-job training depends on finding an employer willing to provide this type of training. It may not be available in all regions or healthcare facilities.
- Less Flexibility: On-the-job training typically requires you to sign an employment agreement with the provider, usually for at least one year. If you terminate employment, you may need to pay for the cost of training received.
- Limited Training: Your ability to perform certain venipuncture procedures might be restricted by your provider. If you aspire to pursue roles such as a phlebotomy lab technician in the future, you may not meet the basic job application requirements.
B. Advantages of Learning on the Job
The advantages of on-the-job training in phlebotomy are noteworthy, and they appeal to individuals with specific preferences and goals. Here are some key benefits:
- Real-World Experience: On-the-job training allows you to experience the daily challenges and responsibilities of a phlebotomist in a healthcare setting. This real-world experience can help you develop practical skills and gain a deeper understanding of the profession.
- Skill Development: You can learn from experienced professionals and practice your skills under their guidance. This type of mentorship can accelerate your learning and boost your confidence in your abilities.
- Career Progression: On-the-job training can lead to a direct career path in phlebotomy, and as you gain experience, you may have opportunities for advancement or specialization within the field.
Other Potential Differences Between On-The-Job Training and Formal Phlebotomy Programs
The following are differences that may be found between traditional programs and on-the-job training, but they are largely dependent on the requirements and type of school or employer offering the training. For that reason, it’s best to inquire with your school or employer about the following:
- Structure: Formal programs have a structured curriculum, while On-the-job training programs may be less structured and more individualized based on the specific facility or employer.
- Duration: Formal education programs typically have a defined duration, ranging from a few days to several months, whereas on-the-job training can vary in duration based on the employer’s requirements.
On The Job Phlebotomy Training Requirements
Because applicants will work in a healthcare facility and are employees vs. students, on-the-job training typically have more admission requirements than a traditional phlebotomy school. While the specific requirements may vary depending on the employer or healthcare facility, common educational prerequisites for on-the-job in phlebotomy include:
- High School Diploma or Equivalent: Most employers require candidates to have a high school diploma or a GED (General Educational Development) certificate as a minimum educational qualification.
- 18 Years or Older: While you may be able to apply at the age of 17, most training providers will only allow you to start once you turn 18.
- Clean Background Check: Due to the sensitive nature of healthcare work, employers typically conduct background checks to ensure the safety of patients.
- Up-To-Date Vaccination Records: Because you will be working alongside immunocompromised patients, you will likely be required to provide vaccination records.
- CPR Certification: Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification is sometimes required, as it can be crucial in emergency situations within a healthcare setting.
- Basic Science Knowledge: Your foundational understanding of biology, anatomy, and physiology is often inquired during the interview, as these subjects are relevant to phlebotomy.
Finding On-The-Job Training Opportunities
Once you’ve confirmed that you meet the educational prerequisites and have the necessary certifications and licenses, the next step is to find an on-the-job training opportunity in phlebotomy. Here’s how you can go about it:
- Research Healthcare Facilities: Start by researching healthcare facilities in your area, including hospitals, clinics, diagnostic laboratories, and blood banks. These institutions often offer on-the-job programs for phlebotomists. Try to find the job posting pages on their websites, and bookmark them to reference later. We’ve assembled lists of phlebotomy training providers by state, which is a good starting point.
- Job Listings: Keep an eye on job listings for phlebotomy positions. Many employers explicitly mention if they offer on-the-job training. Look for “entry-level phlebotomy” or “phlebotomist trainee” positions.
- Networking: Tap into your professional network or reach out to individuals who work in healthcare. They may be aware of OJT opportunities or can provide guidance on how to approach the job search.
- Contact Employers: Once you identify potential employers, reach out to them to inquire about on-the-job opportunities. Submit your resume and express your interest in learning phlebotomy on the job.
- Be Prepared for Interviews: When you secure an interview for an on-the-job position, be prepared to discuss your educational background, certifications, and your passion for a career in phlebotomy.
- Demonstrate Enthusiasm: Show your enthusiasm for learning and your commitment to becoming a proficient phlebotomist during the interview process. Employers often value candidates with a genuine interest in the field.
Typical Duration of Training
On-the-job training (OJT) in phlebotomy offers a unique blend of practical experience and education, enabling you to develop the skills and knowledge needed to become a competent phlebotomist. The duration of OJT programs can vary depending on the employer, the complexity of the facility, and your prior experience. However, here’s an overview of what you can typically expect:
- Entry-Level Positions: If you’re starting as an entry-level phlebotomist with little to no prior experience, OJT may last several weeks to a few months. During this time, you’ll undergo comprehensive training to ensure you are proficient in blood collection techniques.
- Experienced Hires: For individuals with prior healthcare experience or related certifications, the OJT period may be shorter, as you may already possess transferrable skills and knowledge.
- Continuing Education: OJT doesn’t end once you become a certified phlebotomist. Healthcare professionals, including phlebotomists, are required to engage in continuous learning to stay updated with best practices and evolving technologies.
Learning the Fundamentals of Phlebotomy
During your on-the-job training in phlebotomy, you’ll cover the fundamental aspects of the profession. This typically includes:
- Venipuncture Techniques: Learning and practicing different venipuncture techniques, including butterfly needles and straight needles, is a key component of training. You’ll gain hands-on experience drawing blood from patients.
- Proper Equipment Use: Understanding the use of various phlebotomy equipment, such as needles, vacutainer tubes, tourniquets, and alcohol swabs.
- Infection Control: Infection control procedures are crucial to ensure the safety of both the phlebotomist and the patient. You’ll learn how to maintain a sterile environment and follow safety protocols.
- Patient Interaction: Developing effective communication skills to interact with patients, explain procedures, and address their concerns or anxieties.
- Specimen Handling: Properly collecting, labeling, and handling blood samples, including ensuring they are transported to the laboratory in a timely and accurate manner.
- HIPAA Compliance: Understanding and adhering to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to protect patient confidentiality.
Gaining Hands-On Experience
The heart of on-the-job training lies in gaining practical experience. This part of the training allows you to apply what you’ve learned in a real healthcare setting. Here’s what to expect during this hands-on phase:
- Supervised Venipuncture: You will be supervised by experienced phlebotomists while you perform venipuncture on actual patients. This is an essential part of the learning process and helps build your confidence.
- Handling Challenging Situations: During your training, you may encounter patients with difficult veins or those who are anxious about the procedure. This hands-on experience is invaluable for learning how to handle these challenging situations.
- Teamwork: You’ll work closely with healthcare teams, including doctors, nurses, and laboratory staff. Learning how to collaborate and communicate effectively within a healthcare environment is a valuable skill.
- Safety Protocols: Practicing infection control measures and maintaining a clean, safe environment during blood collection is a priority. These skills are essential for both patient safety and your professional growth.
Opportunities for Networking and Career Advancement
OJT in phlebotomy provides an excellent platform for building a professional network and creating opportunities for career advancement:
- Mentorship: During your OJT, you’ll work closely with experienced phlebotomists who can serve as mentors. These relationships can be instrumental in your career development.
- Job Placement: Many OJT programs, especially those offered by healthcare institutions, have a high likelihood of offering employment upon successful completion of training. This can accelerate your entry into the workforce.
- Career Pathways: As you gain experience through OJT, you can explore various career pathways within the healthcare field. Phlebotomy is often a stepping stone to other healthcare professions, such as medical technology or nursing.
- Professional References: The professionals you work with during OJT can serve as valuable references when you apply for positions or certifications. Strong references can enhance your career prospects.
While on-the-job training presents challenges like balancing work and learning, you can overcome them with commitment and guidance. Both on-the-job training and completing school through a traditional phlebotomy program can lead to a rewarding career as a phlebotomist, and your dedication and continuous learning will make a meaningful impact on patient care.
Choose the path that aligns with your goals, and embrace your journey in the world of phlebotomy, where you can grow and make a positive difference in patients’ lives.