National Phlebotomists Recognition Week: An Expert's Advocacy Guide
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“You get people who are working low-level positions and working to their core. So, they’re not there for their children, and they’re not there for their home. With phlebotomy, you can finally put them in a career and you can actually make them see how important they are from the day they walk into class.”
Kimberly Harrington, CEO and Owner of Phlebotomy Express Training Centers
Phlebotomists are essential members of the healthcare ecosystem. Their skill and expertise are necessary to perform venipunctures and other laboratory test sample collections. Thanks to their hard work, physicians have the test results they need to help to diagnose patients based on blood work.
Kimberly Harrington, a top educator for phlebotomists, shares, “Phlebotomists are really the true frontline. Nobody can tell you what’s going on—a doctor can’t even begin to guess, unless he has your lab work.”
To acknowledge the hard work done by these outstanding healthcare providers, the Registered Phlebotomy Technicians (RPT) and American Medical Technologists (AMT) have designated February 14-18, 2022, as National Phlebotomists Recognition Week (NPRW).
Getting involved with NPRW is easy. Employers are encouraged to organize a committee to celebrate this exciting week. Recognition ideas include posting banners and posters to bring public awareness to these hard-working professionals, offering phlebotomists free continuing education opportunities, and a sponsored lunch or an ice cream social. In addition, community members can get involved with NPRW by inviting phlebotomists and phlebotomy educators to speak at school and community centers about the valuable work they do.
Social media can also be a great platform to share about NPRW. The AMT has crafted shareable Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn Images for employers, professionals, and community members to use throughout the week. The AMT encourages all posts to be accompanied by the hashtags #AMTPhlebotomistsWeek #NationalPhlebotomistWeek #NPRW to help increase awareness.
Presently, over 128,000 phlebotomists are working in hospitals, labs, clinics, and outpatient centers across the country. Continue reading to learn more about phlebotomy, the importance of this profession, and how this career can change lives from Kimberly Harrington, a top educator in this field.
Meet The Expert: Kimberly Harrington, Phlebotomy Express Training Centers LLC
Kimberly Harrington is the CEO of Phlebotomy Express Training Centers LLC in Detroit, MI. Ms. Harrington transitioned to phlebotomy after a 30-year career working for AT&T. She quickly realized this low-barrier-to-entry profession offered higher than average wages and advancement opportunities and wanted to provide that same opportunity to her community and neighbors.
She founded Phlebotomy Express Training Centers directly across from Samuel Mumford High School and now offers a four-week course in phlebotomy and a six-week medical assistant certification program. Students include everyone from high schoolers to retirees. Ms. Harrington is the recipient of the Walker Power 15 Legacy Award Detroit, the 2018 City Spirit of Detroit Award, and is among the Who’s Who in Black Detroit 2020.
The Importance of Phlebotomists
Without phlebotomists, there would be a missing part of the healthcare ecosystem that helps physicians gather information to diagnose a patient. “Whenever you go to the doctor, or physician, or even court, in order to find out the true science of what’s going on with you, you have to get your blood drawn. And so that’s what a phlebotomist does,” shares Ms. Harrington.
“They perform a venipuncture which is the procedure of collecting blood samples and specimens to be tested. These tests can tell us whether you’re in good health or bad health, whether you need more of a certain medicine, whether you were drunk at the time that you had a DUI.”
While a blood draw may seem relatively straightforward, there are many things a trained phlebotomist must keep track of: “You have to be able to protect the integrity of the specimen. You can’t just go in and draw from any vein; there are certain veins you have got to draw from. There is also a certain order to draw. You just can’t just grab any color tube and draw. You need to know the reason for the blood culture first and then precisely how to do it,” says Ms. Harrington. “Each tube has an additive in it. So obviously, you don’t want to mix that additive up with something that will mess up the integrity of the blood.”
Because phlebotomists are healthcare providers, they also must adhere to any applicable laws: “You have got to know HIPAA laws very well. You can’t discuss why you drew a person’s blood or what the results are. I always tell my students that at the point they become a phlebotomist, they are a part of the legal part of healthcare. So if the doctor gets sued, the nurse gets sued, the hospital gets sued—all the way down to the phlebotomist. So you have got to take this seriously,” Ms. Harrington warns.
Impact of Covid on Demand for Phlebotomists
Like many healthcare professions, there was an increase in demand for phlebotomists when the Covid pandemic began in the US. Ms. Harrington shares, “When Covid hit, it made the role of the phlebotomist so important. There was already a blood shortage and the Red Cross was trying to get me to send as many students as I could, but when the pandemic started, you really needed someone to do the Covid antibody testing because that’s in a phlebotomist’s scope.”
With ongoing waves of Covid, demand for phlebotomists is still increasing. Labs in the Bay Area have begun offering mobile lab services to vulnerable patients so they do not expose themselves to other patients. While rapid antigen tests can be performed at home by anyone, they typically aren’t acceptable for travel or return to work or school. These mobile services, performed by phlebotomists or nurses, can deliver a test at home with the necessary documentation to satisfy even the most rigorous requirements.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021) estimates that there will be a 22 percent increase in demand for phlebotomists nationally between 2020 and 2030. This increase is primarily due to workers retiring or leaving for other professions, as well as the increase of available tests on the market. Increased and more frequent Covid testing requirements will also raise demand for qualified phlebotomists to test antibody counts.
How Phlebotomy School Can Help Communities
When Ms. Harrington earned her phlebotomy certificate, she quickly realized that this career path could be an asset to many people in her neighborhood. To help her community, she opened her phlebotomy school directly across the street from the high school she graduated from: “What it did was it opened up a field to the Black community that they didn’t know was available. They always assumed that it was a lot of education to be a medical assistant or phlebotomist. And once I opened up my school, I gave them a fast track and affordable way to obtain an opportunity to go directly into work,” she shares.
Ms. Harrington continues, “They were able to take my class, and I will tell you, within weeks, they’re already working full time somewhere. It’s more than just having a job, not to knock a fast-food job or a retail job. But it’s something different to be able to have a career. Phlebotomy really allows them different opportunities because they can work at more than just a hospital. You’re talking of urgent care, Covid testing sites, and schools. The job of a phlebotomist is a very important piece to the medical field.”
The impact of the school in her community is palpable. “I get a lot of feedback on how I’m making a difference. All you have to do is meet these people. You get people who are working low-level positions and working to their core. So, they’re not there for their children, and they’re not there for their home. With phlebotomy, you can finally put them in a career and you can actually make them see how important they are from the day they walk into class. I tell them, ‘You’ve got your uniform on, so you’re already a phlebotomist to me. Now prove to me that you aren’t.’ By bettering one person at a time, you better one community at a time because those are your neighbors. You can release some stress off of a family and teach them a quick way to a career, then they can conquer the world.” she says.