A Medical Assistant’s Role in Phlebotomy

Medical testing is often required to diagnose a patient. One of the most common tests performed by a medical assistant is a blood test. Blood tests can check for a wide range of conditions such as thyroid disorders, complete blood count totals, liver function, and kidney function. In some cases, a condition isn’t necessarily seen or felt by the patient until a blood test confirms that it is present. This is where the medical assistant and their phlebotomy skills come in handy. It is their job to draw the blood of patients who require routine blood testing as well as handle a wide range of other medical tests to keep the patient healthy.

What is Phlebotomy?

Phlebotomy is a medical practice where a medical professional draws blood from a patient for testing. Most blood draws are done via venipunctures. This require either a Vacutainer that contains a syringe and holder for the test tube or a butterfly syringe which is ideal for thinner or hard-to-reach veins. Blood cultures are done similarly to all other phlebotomy procedures, but a larger tube or bottle is used to collect a larger portion of blood. Blood cultures are required if a patient is thought to have septicemia or bacteremia.

What is the Process for Working with Patients?

The medical assistant’s duty is to provide care to patients who need phlebotomy testing performed. First, the doctor will order which tests are required for the patient. It is the medical assistant’s job to know which tubes are needed to perform the blood draw. For example, a CBC (complete blood count) requires a purple tube and an SST (red with gold top) is needed for testing of thyroid conditions and other illnesses. Once the order has been placed and the vials chosen, the medical assistant will need to label all of the vials to ensure that the patient’s information is valid and easy to read after the blood draw.

The medical assistant needs to wear proper protective equipment to protect both themselves and the patient. This includes a fresh pair of gloves, lab coat and protective gloves. Next, the medical assistant needs to make the patient comfortable and educate them on the procedure. The medical assistant should give each patient at least five minutes to fully relax and understand what is going to be done. It is also important to ask the patient if they are well-hydrated to ensure that proper blood flow is assured.

By using a tourniquet and the proper syringe with the vial, the medical assistant will locate a vein via palpitation and draw the blood. The medical assistant will need make sure to ask the patient if they are comfortable or if they feel faint. If the patient feels faint, the medical assistant should stop the procedure and have the patient lay down. The medical assistant will provide the patient with a sugary beverage like orange juice, especially if a lot of blood has been drawn. It is important for the medical assistant to remove the tourniquet before they take the needle out of the patient’s arm to prevent blood spurting from the wound. After the blood draw, the medical assistant will then cover the wound with a clean piece of gauze and skin-safe paper or plastic tape.

Medical assistant may need to perform other types of testing. This may include fecal test samples, urine samples, heel sticks for babies or finger sticks. Phlebotomy is often misunderstood as just being about drawing blood, but there are dozens of other tests that the medical assistant will be responsible for performing, especially if their role as phlebotomist is coupled with being a medical assistant.

Skills Needed to Perform Phlebotomy as a Medical Assistant

While there are many professionals who specifically work as phlebotomists, being a medical assistant and a phlebotomist opens up more career opportunities. The medical assistant will need proper training to effectively and safely draw blood from potential patients. In some cases, a medical assistant may learn “on the job” on how to properly draw blood and perform other medical tests.

Most phlebotomist courses take less than a year and they prepare the medical assistant for a career as a phlebotomist and medical assistant. In classes, the student will learn what tests are needed, how to perform them and safety precautions to take to protect themselves and their patients. These skills will come in handy while the medical assistant is on the job. Patients will thank the phlebotomist for being a skilled professional who is able to find their veins, collect the blood samples needed and perform the proper testing to ensure their health and overall wellness.

Final Thoughts

If you are interested in becoming a medical assistant and want to learn how to draw blood, consider that it takes less than a year to graduate from a vocational school. You can gain a career and start earning quickly. With the current pandemic and growth of the Baby Boomer generation, medical assistants and phlebotomist will be needed in the coming decade. Get ready to help your patients stay healthy and stand on the front lines of healthcare.

Did learning about a medical assistant’s role in phlebotomy interest you? Ready to become a medical assistant? Gwinnett Colleges & Institute offers medical assisting courses to gain essential skills and training. The core curriculum focuses on the medical assisting skills and training you will need to seek entry-level employment in physicians’ offices, clinics, hospitals, and other medical settings needing the services of associates trained in both front and back office medical assisting skills. These medical assisting courses will be the first step in starting a rewarding career.