A brief history of phlebotomy

Just about everyone has had blood drawn before. The rubber band is placed at the top of your arm, and the needle is inserted. The thing that most people may not know is that the person who is drawing your blood, does exactly that for a living. You may think that they are a nurse, but in reality they are a phlebotomist. Phlebotomy has come a long way, however. It is definitely not what it used to be.

Do you remember learning about the Bubonic Plague? Bloodletting was a common practice that was thought to let the disease out of your system along with your blood, but in reality just spread the infection to everyone else as you drug your blood along the filthy street of Pre-Renaissance Europe. Before the nineteenth century, blood was simply thought as something that caused many of the sicknesses and ailments of the age. Sometimes people would have leeches inserted onto them to rid them of the disease, or barbers were hired for the job of bloodletting.

Nowadays we know that losing too much blood is definitely not helpful and that, especially in cases such as the Plague, only contributed to the illness. Some patients did find some sort of comfort, however, if they suffered from high blood pressure. You may have taken notice to the fact that the people that performed the job of bloodletting were dubbed “barbers”. That’s right, before they were cutting in tight around the ears and loose on the top, they were early day phlebotomists.

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Imagine if they had kept the name barber, would we be telling each other to go to the phlebotomist on Main Street for a haircut? Actually, the red and white rotating barber sign symbolizes the blood and tourniquets that controlled blood flow. Now it almost makes sense that American Red Cross and the local barber sport the same colors. But in today’s world, phlebotomy is much different. For instance, much to everyone’s relief, it is much more sanitary. Phlebotomists go through an extensive amount of training. They have to go to school where they learn about the job and how to do it in the class room, much like any other college lecture hall. After they are taught in the class room, they are put to the test to see what they learned. Their clinical studies basically are going to a clinic, and performing the duties and phlebotomist would. Before they are ever allowed to be a phlebotomist, they have numerous hands-on assignments. Once they get their hands on you, they should have no problem drawing your blood like they have been doing it for years. They will know every procedure, and will follow them all very closely in order to protect you, as well as themselves.