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Washington Health System’s New In-House Program Trains Students to Become Phlebotomists
By Daniel Casciato

Phlebotomy technicians, or phlebotomists, are an essential position in the healthcare industry. A phlebotomist is an invaluable member of the healthcare team who draws blood from a patient’s vein for the purpose of performing a medical test to diagnose an illness.

Phlebotomists are essential to the medical field, notes Kim Lonich, senior human resources partner with Washington Health System (WHS). Without phlebotomists and the expertise they provide for patients, doctors and laboratories, patient care would not be as helpful or as accurate.

It takes a skilled person who is able to draw blood quickly, efficiently, and with minimal discomfort to the patient. A phlebotomist will also sterilize and prepare lab equipment, label and ship samples, and enter patient information into electronic health records. They need to be able to create an atmosphere of trust and confidence with patients to ensure the process goes smoothly.

However, it has been a challenge for many local health systems, such as WHS, to hire and retain quality phlebotomy staff members due to a shortage of qualified candidates in the region.

To address this shortage WHS started a paid training program in the fall of 2019 for phlebotomy, and has since trained 12 phlebotomists through three programs. The program requires 80 hours of classroom training and 80 hours of clinical training at WHS Washington Hospital and/or Washington Health System Greene.

“There weren't a lot of programs in the region producing phlebotomists,” says Lonich. “We had to think outside of the box to get phlebotomists in here.”

Students will learn about anatomy, medical terminology, and simple laboratory procedures, adds Kimberly Schramm, Manager of the Phlebotomy Lab. The courses they will take prepares them for a phlebotomy certification exam.

“WHS will pay for the full cost of the training program and certification exam, which is a big plus,” says Schramm. “After four weeks of online coursework, you will spend two to three weeks in an externship at the hospital where you will perform lab draws.”

Additionally, all of the individuals selected for the program will be hired by WHS as students and will be compensated for the time spent completing the classroom and clinical training.

"The fact that they pay for this program is amazing. I’ve never seen this offered anywhere else,” says Misty Carter-Beard, Phlebotomy Supervisor, who got started in the field 20 years ago. “It’s a great opportunity for someone who’s looking to start in their first professional job. I was a single mother at a young age when I started. I needed to get an honest decent earning pay while I took care of my son. This career was a fast way for me to make a decent earning in a decent amount of time.”

All students who successfully complete the training program and have demonstrated a commitment to the mission, vision and values at WHS, will then be placed in a regular position at one of the WHS facilities, as a phlebotomist.

In return, Schramm adds that they require that the applicant must commit to working at WHS for a minimum of one year post certification exam.

”The benefits of becoming a phlebotomist is that you can get your foot in the door if you want a career in the healthcare field,” she says. “Also, if you like caring for people, you are also doing a great service to your community.”

To learn more about the next phlebotomist scholarship program, which will begin by early fall, visit whs.org/careers.

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