Phlebotomy tips: 10 sure-fire formulas for success

May 1, 2011

Tips for new phlebotomists

1. There is no such thing as “too professional.”

If a phlebotomist is the lens through which patients view a facility, evaluate the image you are projecting. Make it your goal to reflect professionalism in all aspects of your appearance, communications, and behavior. A good impression casts you and your employer in a favorable light. Any negative experience that clouds the patient’s perception of care may result in his seeking services elsewhere, and telling others about it along the way.

2. Know your job and what constitutes excellence.

Being familiar with your job description is good; understanding how your duties support the department’s overall mission is best. Being good at what you do and applying those skills and abilities to the greater good of your organization is what puts the “excel” in excellence. Your value as an employee increases when you know your supervisor’s priorities, and you direct your efforts toward meeting stated objectives.

3. There is no such thing as being “too dependable.”

The bane of every phlebotomy supervisor is managing undependable employees and the disruption their absences cause. Those who are weak links in your department’s workflow unwittingly assume for themselves the ball and chain of a bad reputation. Instead, report to work ready to work, and people will quickly learn and appreciate that they can count on you. Dependability does not simply mean clocking in on time but includes being a team player, and showing initiative and flexibility throughout your workday.

4. It pays to be certified.

Phlebotomists who are nationally certified not only enjoy a sense of professional pride, they enjoy bigger paychecks, too. So says a recent ASCP wage and vacancy survey. Certified staff phlebotomists earn, on average, at least 10% more than their non-certified counterparts. And the good news does not end there. As you advance in your career, certified phlebotomy supervisors can also expect to earn more than non-certified supervisors.

5. Commit to continuing education.

Acquiring knowledge should not end just because you have landed a job. Standards are revised, best practices emerge, and technology evolves. Even if your employer does not provide it, make a personal commitment to regularly participate in continuing education. Lifelong learning is key to professional development and advancement.

Tips for managers

1. An ounce of orientation is worth a pound of remediation.

You hired a bright, experienced phlebotomist; everyone is anxious for her to work independently right away. Regardless of work history or resume, do not make assumptions about the knowledge, skills, and abilities of new/newly assigned employees. Only when orientation is comprehensive, supervision adequate, all questions answered, and competence verified through formal assessments can you expect the best. With clear communication and no training gaps, you position new staff members for long-term success.

2. Show appreciation.

What do phlebotomists want from their supervisors? Survey data says it is recognition and appreciation. When employees feel valued and a part of something greater than themselves, productivity and loyalty increase. Monetary rewards may be hard to come by, but paying sincere compliments for a job well done is within every manager’s budget.

3. Respect is a two-way street.

A job title may give you authority, but your words and actions dictate the level of respect you hold in others’ hearts and minds. If you want respect, show respect to those you supervise. Credibility comes when you lead by example. John C. Maxwell says a leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. This translates into demonstrating competence, supporting your staff in the work they do, and serving as a mentor and role model.

4. Surprises are for birthday parties.

When an employee’s work is less than stellar, concerns should be communicated constructively — sooner rather than later. Reserving negative comments until evaluation time feels to the employee more like an ambush than a fair job-performance assessment — and can generate in him feelings of distrust. Instead of surprising staff during performance appraisals, invest in them by providing consistent feedback and coaching, so they always know where they stand and have the opportunity to address noted deficiencies. If they are worth keeping, they are worth correcting.

5. Commit to continuing education.

Infusing continuing education into the workplace has multiple benefits. As employees learn and grow, they become more deeply rooted in their profession, their expertise matures, and careers blossom. Providing educational opportunities makes quality improvement a way of life, and your life will be much easier with a quality staff.

Lisa O. Ballance, BSMT(ASCP), CLC(AMT), is the director of Online Education at the Center for Phlebotomy Education in Corydon, IN. A medical technologist, laboratory manager, and certified laboratory consultant, she is the managing editor of the Phlebotomy Today family of e-newsletters and develops online continuing education programs for healthcare professionals who perform phlebotomy procedures.