Becoming nationally certified isn't always required, but should it be?
by Shanise Keith • February 18, 2022
A few years ago, when I was working as a phlebotomy instructor, I requested a meeting with a phlebotomy supervisor at a local (and relatively large) healthcare organization. I wanted to discuss expectations for new phlebotomy hires and see if the students we were training were meeting those expectations. Hearing the opinions of local industry workers can be incredibly insightful and lets us know what we can improve to ensure we provide qualified candidates for hire.
Somewhere throughout our conversation, I asked her if she had a preference about her employees being nationally certified or not. To my surprise, she informed me that she didn't want phlebotomists who were nationally certified. She said that when a student is nationally certified, it doesn't actually mean that they know anything, and it doesn't prove anything to her. She preferred that they were not nationally certified and told me that whenever she hired a new phlebotomist, she gave them "The Phlebotomy Bible," a document that she had created herself and expected new hires to memorize.
Her answer surprised me (shocked me honestly), because everything we taught to students in class was also applicable to the national test. All of it was important. I questioned further, thinking that maybe her priority of book knowledge was just not as important to her as hands-on skills. To my dismay, she told me that she believed that the national test taught students to do things differently than she liked. It gave them "bad habits" that she had to un-teach during training.
I asked her several more questions, and her answers to all of them left me confused. One, for example, was if she expected phlebotomists to know the order-of-draw when she hired them. She didn't know what I was talking about. I had to explain that I was referring to the order in which blood tubes were collected. "Oh, that," she said. "It doesn't matter to me. The computer prints out the labels in a certain order, and that is how we collect them."
I really hope that the computer printed out the labels in the correct order of draw, but even if it did, a phlebotomist not knowing the correct order of draw is a terrible flaw - one that can lead to devastating results. The more we talked, the more concerned I became about how she was training her staff. It was probably more like un-training them.
Unfortunately, I have run into a few people with a mentality like hers, but most supervisors strongly value a phlebotomist who has taken the extra step to become nationally certified. Some require it before even considering an applicant. This shows that they have learned the book knowledge, along with developing the hands-on skills to perform the job properly.
Another positive aspect of being nationally certified is the continuing education required every year to keep it current. Healthcare is an ever-changing, ever-advancing field. Phlebotomists and other healthcare workers must keep themselves up-to-date, or they simply are not functioning at the highest standard of care. The phlebotomy supervisor in my story could have benefited greatly from some updated education but she was either unwilling to learn, or simply did not recognize the importance.
Of course, a phlebotomist can still have poor interpersonal skills or incorrect blood collection techniques while also being nationally certified, but the value of having that extra certification shows the education and experience of a phlebotomist. It's worth noting and gives (most) supervisors some extra confidence in that phlebotomist. I believe that as time goes on, having that certification will become standard for all phlebotomists. I wish it were that way now, but it is something that will hopefully become expected. It is never a bad thing to expand our knowledge and grow as a person, especially with how crucial the role of a phlebotomist is today.
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Phlebotomy Supervisor and Instructor
HOW does this supervisor qualify for her job? This is BAD. I always teach my students national/ CLIA/CLSI/CAP standards. She needs education
Terry Shipley, 02/18/2022 09:25:00
National certified Phlebotomist
Thank you for sharing your story I’ve been nationally certified for over 12 years I think it’s important for every phlebotomist to be nationally certified in their field of expertise I’ve always shared that it helps with the hiring process to know that that phlebotomist has done a little extra in their field of knowledge
Eva Longoria, 02/18/2022 10:11:12
We prefer certification for a few reasons. 1) It does help standardize a common knowledge base needed to do the job. 2) Passing the tests also gives them the ability to market themselves as they seek employment. Education, Certifications are ways to separate potential hires and be proud of your accomplishments. For an employer, I know these things typically come with hard work and dedication. I also prefer having certification that is nationally recognized and backed versus some online certificates that only seek money to send you a certificate with no tests or poor testing format required.
T. Geis , 02/18/2022 10:11:49
Being Nationally Certified
I am 57 years old and drew blood from another person for the first time in 1984 during my Hospital Corpsman training in the Navy. The Navy never considered certifying corpsman to do this job, and I have never been certified or ever thought it necessary. However, since joining the company I now work for (GetLabs) as a phlebotomy coordinator, I have changed my mind about that. Or I should say, Dennis Ernst has changed my mind about that. I am happy to say, I am scheduled to take the certification exam tomorrow afternoon. Dennis has shown me through his articles on the subject that is should be important to a phlebotomist personally as part of who they are. I believe that to be true and want to strive to be the best I can be in my profession. That should also be important to every phlebotomist who understands the importance of what they do. It took me awhile!
Jonathan Dobler, 02/18/2022 10:15:32
How did it end?
Even though she is a superior she is endangering patients, especially Warfarin monitoring, blood Cultures, and other such tests. How did you correct the problem? Or did you simply continue letting it happen because she was a superior?
Hannah Wilson , 02/18/2022 11:26:41
Response to Hannah Wilson
That is a great question, and you are correct that she was dangerous. After I left the meeting with her I decided I scheduled meetings with other phlebotomy supervisors from the same company to see if everyone functioned this way, or if it was just her. I fortunately found out that all of the other phlebotomy supervisors were more updated. I ended up reporting my worries to the company, but I never heard anything resulting from it. This supervisor had been there for a long time, and was well liked. Hopefully some education was implemented and things changed.
Shanise Keith, 02/18/2022 12:44:13
Proper order is to know order and draw it correctly she wrong about certified or not it is a self conscious of what you learn and hold dear to your heart and love this job do it the right way
Order of draw is important to you and pt and dr that supervisor was wrong it does matter to you job and pt to be comfortable in your work I got mines since 1997 still keep it up and help me get jobs and higher pay
Patricia a jones , 02/18/2022 13:22:57
would take student set up for certification
shows commitment to profession
Helen, 02/18/2022 13:40:14
I'm in Arzona and I see this issue everyday. I would love to speak with you about alot of things. I know a change in Phlebotomy has to be done and the time is now!!
Laur Zimmardi, 02/18/2022 16:11:06
long overdue in the UK.Huge variations in practice and often dictated by managers often non clinical who have not got a clue
Wini, 02/21/2022 04:45:50
National Phlebotomy Certification
Great article. I see the NHA is not on the list of recommenced credentialing organizations. Is there a reason they were not chosen?
Cindy La Bella, 02/21/2022 09:37:46
MT (ASCP) Phlebotomy Supervisor
I am dismayed when I run across these type of stories. Though we do not require certification at our facility ( I wish they would) many of our employees are graduates from our hospital based phlebotomy school and are certified. I see a real difference in their knowledge base and quality. I am also disappointed in the number of applicants coming from training programs that do not include any type of clinical experience (externship). How are they prepared to deal with difficult draws and adjust their collection methods/location to avoid preanalytical errors ?
Karen Nelson, 03/02/2022 16:19:00
I'm horrified to hear that story. Incorrect procedures cause danger to the public. In NZ phlebotomists must be certified and annual competencies /checks are completed annually for all.
Cathy Connell , New Zealand, 03/02/2022 17:51:11