Whether you’re working as an EMT or paramedic or considering a career as an EMT or paramedic, you may want to know what other job options might be available to you if you decide that you want to move out of the frontline response teams? Well, one feasible option to you might well be to become a phlebotomist and this is why.
EMTs and Paramedics can work as a Phlebotomist, but not without first going through phlebotomy education, training, and certification. They may have an easier time getting certified due to their experience.
This process will be explained below. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is An EMT/Paramedic?
Paramedics must undertake an EMT program prior to studying for their higher level qualifications and thus, have much in common with EMTs including NREMT certification (the national register for EMT certification).
Paramedics and EMTs will carry out duties that include the following:
- Being a “first responder” to the scenes of medical emergencies when it is thought that life support and first aid will be required for the individuals involved
- Being as responsive as possible within the scope of an emergency, to make quick and accurate decisions and to take fast action once decisions have been made
- Assessing the need to move patients and determining how such a move might be carried out if the patient is unable to move themselves to the ambulance
- Working with patients and members of the public with various learning or mental health challenges
- Documenting and reporting on a patient’s condition prior to handing them over at a hospital
- Lifting patients onto stretchers and be able to load these stretchers safely into an ambulance and to do so in a timely fashion
- Conducting basic triage and decide which medical facilities a patient should be transported to when they need to be moved
- Carrying out daily checks on the equipment they are using in the job including the vehicle itself – they will also ensure that supplies are properly stocked, in date and stored in a manner that ensures they are kept safely and securely
- Providing emotional support for patients and members of the public involved in an incident
- In the event of contagious and dangerous conditions – they may be called upon to provide decontamination protocols for the ambulance as well as to report the contagion to the appropriate authorities
EMTs will also:
- Give CPR when required and administer oxygen in the case where a patient is struggling with their breathing
- Give glucose to diabetics (using an auto-injector, typically EMTs are not allowed to give treatment which involves needles or breaking the skin)
- Giving treatments for allergies or asthma attacks as they arise
Paramedics handle EMT duties when required but may also:
- Carry out some invasive procedures such as providing pain relief, inserting cannula for IV drips, etc.
- Administer certain treatments and medicines using injections or by mouth
- Provide advanced forms of cardiac resuscitation and delivery airway management to those struggling to breathe
- Interpret electrocardiograms or EKG (that is heart monitoring readouts)
So, as you can see EMTs and paramedics have a fairly broad range of skills, and in addition to this, they need excellent problem-solving skills and they must be physically fit as the job demands that they do an awful lot of bending, reaching, lifting, etc.
This video gives you another look at what EMTs and Paramedics actually do:
What Is A Phlebotomist?
A phlebotomist is someone who conducts phlebotomy, that is they are capable of making a puncture in a vein (which is usually but not always located in the arm) and then inserting a cannula so that they can draw a blood sample from the individual.
This procedure, however, is not “a phlebotomy” but rather a “venipuncture” (quite literally – the puncturing of a vein).
Here is a look at the venipuncture procedure:
This is a fairly generic process in medical work and it does not always require a phlebotomist to carry out this work. Most nurses, medical technicians, and doctors are quite capable of carrying out a venipuncture on a patient. Paramedics in some areas are able to perform this procedure.
It’s also quite important not to mistake phlebotomy for phlebectomy which while only a single letter apart in terms of spelling are very different procedures, indeed (phlebectomy is a form of surgical treatment for varicose veins).
So, what is the purpose of a phlebotomist?
Well, in most health care organizations there is a need for a fairly large amount of blood work and testing and this is best handled by a specialist worker rather than having random health professionals roped into to take blood and then ensure it reaches the right place for testing.
Phlebotomists will draw blood samples so that they may carry out medical tests, to provide blood transfusions, to collect blood when a donation is required, and for research purposes.
Other than the venipuncture technique, they may also be required to use “finger sticks” (which if you have ever been tested for diabetes you will be familiar with – it’s a needle which punctures the finger for a very small drop of blood) and “heel sticks” (which are used on infants to collect blood when venipuncture would not be practical).
They will also work to interpret the results of the tests that they run, to treat the blood with the appropriate additional chemicals to execute tests, to explain the purpose and methods of tests to the patients that they are treating.
They may also be involved in labelling and processing the samples that are collected as well as basic patient care routines.
All this means that there is not a huge amount of a phlebotomist’s job that couldn’t be picked up fairly quickly by a trained EMT or paramedic.
However, in the United States, anyone who wishes to become a phlebotomist will need to take an on-the-job program of training and in addition to this, they will need to be certified.
In most states, this will be through any of a large number of nationally certified agencies that are considered competent to certify phlebotomists.
Unfortunately, in Washington, Nevada, Louisiana and California you will also need to be certified by the state. In the case of California, this reduces the options of national certification providers to 6 specific agencies (all the others are simply not recognized by California’s state government).
These certifications whether national or state specific all require undertaking a phlebotomy course, experience in the lab or in clinical practice and passing an exam.
This is in stark contrast to the United Kingdom where all training is done on the job and while you can study for a phlebotomy certification – it’s not compulsory.
This video describes what the job of a phlebotomist is really like:
Here is a resource to help with the process of becoming a phlebotomist.
How Would You Transfer From EMT/Paramedic To Phlebotomist?
It would be nice if you could just show that you have experience with inserting IVs or drawing blood as a paramedic and they would allow you to pick up shifts as a phlebotomist, however, that does not seem to be the case.
You will still be required to go through the same training, testing, and certification process that is anyone needs to in order to be a phlebotomist. However, with your experience, you may have an easier time getting through the program than someone with no experience.
Can an EMT/Paramedic work as a phlebotomist? Yes, but you won’t be allowed to skip the phlebotomy training. In the United States, this will mean that you have to study for and pass a national certification (and in four states a local one too) and then gain practical, on the job experience as a phlebotomist. If you live in the UK, you can just learn on the job.
However, there is a distinct advantage in this job to having an EMT or paramedic background and making the change to phlebotomist ought to be reasonably straightforward as long as you are prepared to work at it.