A medical assistant is a healthcare worker that assists physicians and nurses by performing a variety of tasks, such as taking patient vitals, scheduling appointments, and maintaining patient records.
In addition to these responsibilities, you may be wondering whether or not medical assistants can draw blood.
Typically, medical assistants can draw blood under the supervision of a licensed physician. However, some states require medical assistants to have a phlebotomy certificate to draw blood. These states include California, Louisiana, Nevada, and Washington.
This guide will go over everything you need to know about medical assistants drawing blood, including how to get a phlebotomy certification and more.
Where Can Medical Assistants Draw Blood?
Medical assistant scope of practice laws outline the tasks that a healthcare worker is legally allowed to perform. Each state has its own scope of practice laws for medical assistants.
The following four states are the only states that have restrictions for medical assistants drawing blood:
In Louisiana, medical assistants will need a phlebotomy certification to draw blood.
In Nevada, medical assistants will need a phlebotomy certification to draw blood.
In Washington, medical assistants will need to obtain a credential from the Washington State Department of Health in order to work. To draw blood, medical assistants will need to apply for a phlebotomy certification, which requires the completion of a phlebotomy training program.
States With No Restrictions On Medical Assistants Drawing Blood
The following states have no restrictions for medical assistants drawing blood:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Why Do Medical Assistants Draw Blood?
For many people, the thought of getting their blood drawn can cause some anxiety. However, blood is an important indicator of health because it is responsible for transporting nutrients, hormones, oxygen, and more throughout the body.
Medical assistants draw blood to help other medical professionals monitor patients’ health and diagnose diseases. These blood samples are typically sent to a clinical laboratory, where they are analyzed and inspected using a variety of advanced medical instruments.
Here are some reasons why drawing blood may be necessary:
- To get a complete blood cell count
- Testing for various minerals (such as iron, potassium, etc.)
- Testing blood glucose levels (important for monitoring conditions like diabetes)
- Monitoring levels of hormones (such as testosterone, cortisol, etc.)
- Monitoring levels of enzymes (such as ALT)
- Looking for infectious organisms
- Testing how well your blood clots
- Determining blood type
- Donating blood
Most Medical Assistant Programs Include Phlebotomy Training
Phlebotomy is the practice of drawing blood from the veins using a puncturing tool. Blood draws are a very common medical procedure because blood samples can provide a lot of valuable diagnostic information. Thus, it is important for medical assistants to be trained in phlebotomy.
In most states, a phlebotomy license is not needed to draw blood. However, many employers may prefer to hire applicants who hold a phlebotomy certification, especially if they expect their medical assistants to draw blood as part of their job duties.
Most medical assistant programs include phlebotomy training in their curriculum. For example, Stepful’s 4 month-online medical assistant training program includes phlebotomy training, in addition to training for other important skills.
Stepful also has a separate online phlebotomy training program that only takes 5 weeks to complete and leads to your certification.
How to Get Your Phlebotomy Certification
If you want to become a phlebotomist or get your phlebotomy certification, it is a relatively simple process. Keep in mind that the exact process will vary slightly depending on the state you plan to work in.
Here are the general steps to getting your phlebotomy certification:
- Complete an approved phlebotomy program. These programs are offered through community colleges and trade schools. There are also online options available. A typical phlebotomy program will take anywhere from a couple of weeks to months to complete. It will include a didactic portion (typical class-room style learning) and hands-on practice components.
- Pass one of the certification exams. There are several phlebotomy certification exams offered by organizations such as the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and the National Phlebotomy Association (NPA). To become eligible to take one of these exams, you will first need to satisfy their prerequisites.
- Check your state’s department of health website. If there are more specific requirements, like obtaining a license, your state’s department of health website will tell you what steps you need to take.
What to Do If You Don’t Want to Draw Blood as a Medical Assistant
It is possible to work as a medical assistant without having to draw blood. Because medical assistants perform a variety of tasks, it is not too difficult to find a position that does not involve drawing blood.
When inquiring about open medical assistant positions, you should closely read the job description to see if you would be expected to perform blood draws.
Some medical assistants choose to focus the majority (if not all) of their attention on administrative work as opposed to clinical work. These positions may be specified as medical administrative assistants.
These types of medical assistants generally work at the front desk of a medical office. Their duties usually include scheduling appointments, making and answering phone calls, working with medical billing, and maintaining adequate supplies.
There are other options if you still want to be involved in patient care, without being expected to draw blood. Certain medical assistant specialties are less to be required to draw blood. The section below will discuss this more in-depth.
Medical Assistant Specialties Likely & Unlikely to Draw Blood
Due to the nature and scope of each particular specialty, some of them may be more or less likely than others to have blood draws as part of their typical duties.
Here are some examples of medical assistant specialties where you are likely to have to draw blood:
- Endocrinology. Hormones are important signaling chemicals that travel in the blood. Endocrinology is a specialty that treats, diagnoses, and manages conditions related to hormonal dysfunction.
- Primary Care. Blood tests are commonly performed as part of a routine work-up or wellness exam to monitor a patient’s health.
- Pathology. This field involves diagnosing diseases using tools such as microscopes and assays. Many of these tests involve examining and analyzing blood samples for signs of disease. As a result, medical assistants may be asked to help by drawing blood samples.
Here are some examples of medical assistant specialties where you are unlikely to have to draw blood:
- Ophthalmology/Optometry. These specialties deal with treating and diagnosing disorders of the eye. Although many systemic diseases can show up in the eye, it is unlikely that a medical assistant working within this field will need to draw blood.
- Dentistry. This specialty involves treating problems involving the teeth and mouth through dental surgery. Blood draws are not commonly performed in a dental office.
- Psychiatry. This specialty involves treating mental disorders. Medical assistants working in this specialty are not likely to have to draw blood.