Story & photos by Kaylee Hendricks/COMM 2311
The face of the lab: a phlebotomist.
Phlebotomy courses are offered here at South Plains College each spring, summer, and fall semester.
But wait. What is phlebotomy? A basic definition offered by Ruben Salazar, a phlebotomy instructor at South Plains College, phlebotomy is: taking someone’s blood.
Salazar himself took an SPC phlebotomy course 17 years ago. He says he originally went to SPC to become a police officer. He enrolled in phlebotomy after he became injured and wanted something less physically demanding. Now, 17 years later he says he has not looked back from his position at the University Medical Center’s Cancer Lab.
The phlebotomy program at SPC is a fast-paced, information-packed 3-month course, Salazar says. The first five weeks are spent in the classroom.
“We teach 13 chapters in the text,” he says, “anything from the history to the legal aspects of phlebotomy.” There are countless quizzes to test the students’ knowledge of the material.
During the next two weeks of class, Salazar says students pair up and “stick each other.”
After seven weeks, students must complete 20 hours of clinical training with hands-on experience. This phase last two weeks. Clinical training can be done from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. or 12 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Finally, during week 10, students start reviewing for the National Certification Exam. Students must take and pass that to become licensed phlebotomists.
Once all testing is completed, students eventually receive one certificate that certifies them on a national level. A second certificate comes from SPC certifying the student with the school as a licensed phlebotomist. At this point, students are ready to apply for a job.
It is not hard to get accepted into the phlebotomy program at SPC. A potential student must pass a background test and present the school with an updated shot record. After that all- clear, a student is ready to register for the course. A fee of $600 is required to register and $152 for the required textbook. Salazar says the class is offered through Texas Workforce Development and, under certain circumstances, it will pay for the course.
According to Salazar, the SPC class sets itself apart from other phlebotomy classes offered in the area because it trains students to be “well-rounded” phlebotomists. It’s not just a course where you learn the basics of how to “stick” people.
The SPC class never fails to fill the 10 to 12 spots available every semester.
Salazar says students have traveled from as far away as Odessa to take the course at SPC because it is one of the select few offered within close range of many surrounding cities.
This spring, 12 people were enrolled to take the course. Libby Lee, who just finished taking SPC’s phlebotomy class, says this course was an “eye-opener” for several reasons. For one thing, she says it goes far beyond just drawing blood. She says she learned it is important to use the right needle for the job or a blood test could come back with the wrong results. She also says she learned how to properly take care of a blood sample as it goes from an arm to the lab.
Salazar says he would love to see the class grow, not only in Lubbock but in smaller towns in the area because he sees how many people are traveling to take it.
Phlebotomy, Salazar explains, is not generally a well-known career choice. But it’s a good opportunity, he says, for people to get their foot in the door to see if they like the medical field.
“You must have compassion,” he says. “Compassion is a big part of what we do, the technique I can teach but I cannot teach someone to be compassionate.”
In Lubbock alone, the job opportunities for phlebotomists appear to be endless. Type “phlebotomy jobs Lubbock” into a Google search on a random day in April and you see 20 to
30 jobs pop up.
According to the Mayo Clinic’s College of Medicine and Science website, phlebotomists
work in hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, private home care, medical labs, blood donation centers, and research institutes. They can have flexible hours. And the Mayo Clinic site explains phlebotomists spend most of their time on their feet interacting with patients or preparing samples to be sent to the lab.
Libby Lee was happy to explain how she sees phlebotomy affecting her future. She says, “Hopefully it’s another gateway for me to continue in the medical field.”
In the end, Salazar says, phlebotomists represent the lab. But he sees many students move on from there to not only be phlebotomists. He sees them also go on to be nurses and master’s degree students.
“Once the students finish the course and get hired,” he says, “they recognize that the sky is