Phlebotomists: The Front Line of Pathology

Friday 01 Apr 2022

HSUWA Member Anne has been a Phlebotomist for 10 years and now works for a private pathology company in WA.

 

Phlebotomists are health professionals who are trained in collecting samples and presenting them for lab testing in perfect condition. They are the face of Pathology, collecting samples directly from patients for Medical Scientists to test. Phlebotomists see patients at the point of diagnosis and throughout treatment. They are an integral part of the clinical team.

From working in Medical Reception, Anne entered Phlebotomy after hearing patients getting upset in her waiting room about having to have a needle.

“I moved to Perth and wanted to create a better experience for those patients, so I studied at RPH and got my qualification,” she said.

She added, “I love my job because I get to talk to the patients. I always apologise for having to put a needle in their arm, but I really love what I do.”

The work of Phlebotomists is rigorous and involves close physical contact with patients. Phlebotomists often work to tight deadlines to ensure the wait time for patients between collection and diagnosis is as short as possible.

COVID has impacted the work of Specimen Control Officers and Phlebotomists, with busier workloads, in addition to having to wear PPE including masks and visors for extended periods of time. Members like Anne working in private pathology, don’t yet have access to special paid COVID leave, if they get sick or need to isolate from being a close contact. They also don’t receive any additional allowance for performing a high-risk job during the pandemic.

Anne has seen changes in phlebotomy during her time in the profession, “Phlebotomists must be far more adaptable because there are different testing methods. We do a lot of the sample preparation that was once done by the labs.”

For example, an Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH) test requires the Phlebotomist to collect blood using chilled tubes from the fridge, after which the blood is spun, pipetted into labelled take off tubes and frozen as soon as possible. This process enables Medical Scientists in the lab to test the sample accurately. ACTH is produced in the pituitary gland in the brain, but it also controls production of cortisol from the adrenal glands in the kidneys. Too much or too little cortisol can cause significant health problems. So, it’s important Phlebotomists collect and prepare the sample perfectly.  

Often, many health professionals working within the private sector find it difficult to speak out about their work conditions, however working with others in the Union (sometimes experiencing the same hardships as you) can make all the difference. 

“Having someone on your side is wonderful. You deal with different situations at work, and the Union is only a phone call away, and they are only too willing to help.”

Anne explained that after joining and receiving valuable support, “I don’t fear opening an envelope from my employer anymore.”

Despite the challenges of the job, Anne loves working in private pathology, and the additional protection the HSUWA provides.

She said, “I really am part of the clinical team within the centre I work with are my work family. I’m not going anywhere; I’m going to stay right here!”

To join the HSUWA and thousands of Members like Anne click here.

 

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