People in Pathology: Kylie Douglas, phlebotomist

People may have heard the term phlebotomist for the first time after watching the American version of the reality television show The Bachelor – contestant Tayshia Adams slugging it out for the ‘prize’.

Her exotic job title has excited a lot of interest in the media, but in case you missed a description of what a phlebotomist is and does, we bring you a profile on Kylie Douglas, a South Australian phlebotomist working at Clinpath.

Every day a phlebotomist comes across people who are seeking answers to a health concern.

After visiting a doctor and being sent off for a pathology test to get to the bottom of it, the first person a patient will meet is a phlebotomist.

A phlebotomist is a medical technician who takes blood samples from patients and performs laboratory tasks including setting up samples for analysis and entering lab results in a computer system.

We asked Kylie about a day in the life of the phlebotomist.

‘We are trained to draw blood and to assist patients collect for clinical or medical testing, transfusions, donations, or research. The word in Latin actually means “opening of veins”.

‘It’s more than just a job for me as I get to meet locals coming into the doctor’s surgery who each have their own stories to share. We get to know our regulars and build a rapport,’ said Kylie.

‘Our new patients can be nervous, so it’s good to be able to generate a conversation to create a distraction for them.’

Every year in Australia 500 million pathology tests are performed – many of them involving blood – with 70% of medical treatment decisions relying on those results.

Kylie represents just one of the 35,000 skilled employees working in Australian pathology. Clinpath Pathology employs nearly 300 phlebotomists in South Australia to assist over 140 licensed collection centres.

‘After receiving a doctor’s request form for a pathology test, as a phlebotomist you have to prioritise the order in which samples are taken and dispatched to the lab for analysis,’ said Kylie.

‘Something may be urgent and require immediate attention, while some samples are sensitive to temperature and need to be sent to a lab within a set timeframe.’

‘Getting tests results quickly can be absolutely critical, such as in a hospital situation. A troponin test – which is searching for early markers of a heart attack – means those who need help immediately can get it, while those who aren’t in danger can be safely cleared from emergency departments.’

So, even if you didn’t know it, chances are you’ve had an interaction with a phlebotomist on several occasions, and well before The Bachelor hit our screens.