The Difference Between a Phlebotomist and a Professional Nurse

By Estelle Lecoq

We always strive to deliver a professional service to all our blood donors. Each blood donation clinic comprises of various staff members, each with an important role in the blood collection process. All staff wear uniform for easy identification and medical staff wear epaulettes. Epaulettes is a type of ornamental shoulder piece worn to signify rank. Ever wondered why certain clinic staff wear grey epaulettes and others maroon?

These epaulettes indicates two different positions, a Professional Nurse and a phlebotomist. These staff are the ones that will usually interact with you when it comes to your medical questions, donor interviews and inserting the needle.

Now the question I hear you ask is, “phleboto” what? Yes, you read correctly. A phlebotomist is a fairly new profession (about 15 years) in South Africa. A phlebotomist’s qualification takes 2 years, whereafter they write a board exam by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). Their training focusses on the collection of blood and other bodily fluids for testing. If they pass the board exam, they are registered with the HPCSA. You will recognise a phlebotomist by their grey epaulettes.

A Professional Nurse undergoes a 4-year training programme, either obtaining a degree or a diploma, whereafter they are registered with the South African Nursing Council. They are trained in collecting blood samples and the overall well-being of patients (or donors in the case of WCBS). You will recognise a Professional Nurse by their maroon epaulettes.

At our blood donation clinics, the Professional Nurses take responsibility for all the medical oversight and also supervises the phlebotomist. It is very important to keep in mind that both the Professional Nurse and the phlebotomist can interview donors and collect blood samples. The phlebotomists refer donors with a high-risk lifestyle and medical history to the Professional Nurse.

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