Evolving My Patients Care Skills Through A Phlebotomy Certification Course

To make use of my STEP fellowship, I elected to participate in a Phlebotomy Certification Course through the Ohio Medical Career College. The course consisted of three weeks of instruction and hands-on practice before taking a certification exam offered through the National Healthcareer Association. Through the course, I gained readily applicable healthcare skills, I formed high-quality relationships with professionals, I practiced proper patient care technique, and sat for a certification examination. All of this worked to grow my healthcare related skills and prepare me for a future as a healthcare professional.

Before completing my project, becoming a CPT seemed to serve as a quick steppingstone towards medicine that I could accomplish readily. However, upon starting the course, I realized that phlebotomy required a significant amount of practice and the applications of specialized skills and knowledge. Such skills began with an in-depth review of human anatomy that mirrored content covered in my Anatomy 3300 course at OSU. This content was designed as a baseline so we could understand various physiological tests that could be performed using blood samples. Furthermore, many of the physiological aspects we covered related to pre-analytical variables, or variables that could impact the results of a test. We were taught to how recognize and minimize the impact of these pre-analytical variables for the sake of requiring fewer draws and less risk to the patient. We then became proficient in using a large variety of phlebotomy equipment for specialized draws and tests. These included different evacuated tubes with different additives, needles of differing gauge, and a variety of lancets. As the course continued, it was the hands-on application of technique that helped me most to apply all the information covered in class.

The hands-on portion of the course required many sticks using a variety of methods. We were required to perform 40 punctures total with ten being dermal punctures using lancets and 30 being venipunctures using various needles. I was able to gain proficiency in dermal punctures quickly but struggles initially with venipunctures. The difficulty of venipuncture that I faced was in finding the vein during a draw. I could often palpate the vein initially, but then lose track of it once my equipment was set up. In addition, I had trouble changing tubes during a draw. My instructor noticed these issues when I had trouble identifying them. They helped me to fined tune my technique by using a stronger anchor and anchoring the vein more effectively before completing the draw. Besides allowing me to refine my technique, the hands-on instruction gave me specialized experience using needle safety devices designed to prevent accidental sticks, the correct order of tubes used during a draw, and preventing hematoma, or bruising, due to improper technique. Throughout all this my instructor proved to be a valuable resource not only to perfect my hands-on skills but to prepare me for the healthcare work environment.

The mentor-mentee relationship I had with my instructor as my project consultant allowed me to perceive healthcare in terms of professional relationships. I learned that the best relationships I could form in healthcare would be with those who see patient care the way I do. I have always perceived patient care as a very moral act where the quality of your work is paramount to salary or personal gain. This is because this work directly affects the livelihood of another individual and can do so to large degrees. I hope is that when I enter the healthcare industry, I will meet others who consciously prioritize quality patient care as opposed to simply checking procedures off a checklist. This will allow me to network with professionals who share my interests and can advance my goals. In a way, my discussions with my instructor prepared me for these relationships by giving me the opportunity to flesh out goals and discuss them with a supervisor. One of these goals was to create a study plan for my certification exam.

My certification exam experience allowed to understand what it was like to sit for a healthcare-based exam that tests for knowledge of practical skills. The exam I took was offered by the National Healthcareer association and covered practical skill such as routine venipuncture, patient preparation, and special collection procedures. I researched the content categories myself and worked with my project consultant to draft a plan of study. My plan involved completing a practice exam offered by the book, reviewing that exam, and devoting three hours of study to each subject area. I found that I had proficient knowledge of phlebotomy procedure but needed to review tube additives, pre-analytical variables, and specimen processing. I was able to review these subjects in time and pass my certification exam. I realized that knowledge of the exam material demonstrated a strong proficiency in phlebotomy. I found myself being able to confidently address scenarios presented on the exam that will translate to real life phlebotomy. Now I have distinction that makes me a competitive candidate in the healthcare industry.

Originally, I saw this project as a simple checkmark that would make me a more competitive candidate for medical school. However, by completing it, I have more than an edge on my application. Outside of becoming proficient in phlebotomy technique, I have knowledge of how pre-existing health conditions or patient demographics can affect procedures as simple as a blood draw. In addition, I have gained basic knowledge of hospital proceedings including how to engage professionally with other staff and how to obey laws pertaining to healthcare. Finally, I have knowledge of how to prioritize safety both in terms of needle safety and the safe handling of laboratory equipment. Overall, these skills are widely transferable to any career in healthcare, and I am truly grateful to have gained them through my Second Year Transformational Experience.

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