Learn About Therapeutic Phlebotomy and How to Become a Phlebotomist

According to the Oklahoma Blood Institute, therapeutic phlebotomy is the removal of a patient’s blood (usually from the arm) for medical purposes. It’s intended to decrease one’s blood level as well as reduce red cell mass and iron storage.

Typically, one pint of blood is removed by a phlebotomist, and patients may have one or more of the following disorders:

Sickle Cell – This causes rigid and unusually shaped blood cells.

Polycythemia Vera – Patients with this condition have an excess level of red blood cells which causes blood to thicken.

Hemochomatosis – Too much iron in the blood.

Porphyria Cutanea Tarda – A photsensitive skin disease.

Polycythemia Secondary to Arterio-venous Fistulae – This is an increase in the number of blood cells and an abnormal passageway that’s between an artery and a vein.

Therapeutic Phlebotomy

How to Become a Phlebotomist

All phlebotomists must have formal training, and most enroll in a short-term certificate program offered at community colleges, vocational schools, and through the American Red Cross. However, some students prefer to obtain an associate or bachelor’s degree. Subjects may include: Medical Terminology, CPR, Blood Collection Techniques, Anatomy and Physiology, Laboratory Safety, Theory of Phlebotomy, Legal Concepts to Medical Practice, and Introduction to Electronic Health Records. Programs should include a clinical practicum which provides students with hands-on experience working with patients in a medical setting such as a hospital.

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Even though certification is optional, except in California, Louisiana, and Nevada, phlebotomists should still become certified to have better job prospects since most employers only hire those who have a credential. There are several phlebotomy organizations such as the National Healthcareer Association, the National Accrediting Agency for Laboratory Sciences, and the American Society for Laboratory Science, and a certification exams include questions such as:

  • HIV stands for?
  • What is a multi-draw needle used for?
  • An interactive infection is an infection that is?
  • What is a tourniquet?
  • What is a fistula?
  • What color tube does an electrolyte panel go in?
  • What is a pathogen?
  • What does BBP stand for?
  • What color tube does one use when drawing for a reticulocyte count?
  • What is a hematuria?
  • What does ESR stand for?
  • In which direction should the bevel face upon entering the arm?
  • A group of blood tests ordered are known as?
  • If you accidentally stick yourself with a needle, when is the proper time to report the incident?
  • What is the proper procedure when there is blood on the outside of a tube you have just filled with blood?
  • Serum or plasma that has a white, milky appearance is referred to as?
  • A CBC specimen is clotted and needs to be redrawn. What is most likely cause of the clotting?

Advanced Training

Courses on therapeutic phlebotomy are not usually part of a basic phlebotomy training program, and are usually offered as a separate course. Upon completion, students will need to take another certification exam to specialize in this area.

Job Duties

There are many duties associated with this job, including

  • Organizing and sanitizing blood-drawing trays to ensure all instruments are sterile
  • Drawing blood from the arteries by using arterial blood techniques
  • Disposing of blood according to state laws and employer policies
  • Reporting possible hazards to their supervisor

Job Outlook and Salary

The future looks bright for phlebotomists as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) believes there will be a twenty-seven percent job growth until 2022. The median annual salary in 2013 was $30,150.


Once you complete your certification, start applying for jobs at hospitals, blood donor centers, and diagnostic laboratories as these are the places that the BLS predicts will have the most open positions.

Phlebotomists must have good hand-eye coordination and a friendly bedside manner. If this sounds like the career for you, please contact us to learn more about the various training programs.