An interview with Ali Llamas, a phlebotomy graduate from Empire College in Santa Rosa, CA.

Q:  What program exactly did you complete at Empire College?

Phlebotomy certificate.  I finished my program in Dec [2010]. I did my externship the week before Christmas.

Q:  How long was the program?

11 weeks, but mine lasted a little longer because I did it around the holidays.

Q:  Did you go to school on a full-time or part-time basis?

The Phlebotomy program is from 4:30 to 6 Monday through Thursday.

Q:  Were you happy with the training that you received?

Absolutely.

Q:  What was the most difficult part of the program for you?

Well it’s school, it’s challenging, especially with people who work full time. I was lucky enough not to have to work full time. Also, I had taken a medical assisting program that helped me out a lot having taken it first. It helps with already knowing circulation and flow of the blood, and the heart.

Q:  About how many other students were in your classes?

About 14 students in the Phlebotomy program, medical assisting was much larger.

Q:  What is your current career?

Medical Assisting.

Q:  Describe a typical day in your current career?

Just helping people. I do some surgical assisting, and front office work. That is setting appointments, I give injections, set up EKGs.

Q:  How did your training help you get into this career?

I did the medical assistant program first, and I did get my job through Empire College actually, they have job placement help. As a medical assistant, blood drawing is the most invasive thing you can do, but you don’t always have to do it. The medical assistant program gives you 5 weeks of introduction to phlebotomy and they do a good job, but it’s not enough to get you to sit for the tests nationally or the state exam if you want to be a phlebotomist. So as a medical assistant your job might require you to draw blood so 5 weeks, that’s good enough for the doctor who hires you.

Q:  How would things be different for you if you hadn’t received this training?

Not in my current job, they wouldn’t, but it is helpful.  It just looks good on the resume, as a medical assistant you have that intro, 5 weeks, but it is drawing blood. To get even more training to draw, the phlebotomy program is even much more helpful. I like having the extra practice, if that includes drawing blood, I’m super skilled in that now. Also, the externship at Kaiser helped me realize I don’t want to draw blood 8 hours a day, every day. I do think every school has to offer an externship with the program.

Q:  What was the most important class/lesson from the program?

The hands on skills of the actual blood drawing.

Q:  How much did it cost for you to complete the program?

A little over $2,000.

Q:  Did you receive any financial aid or scholarships?  Which ones?  Were these easy to obtain?

I didn’t need it.

Q:  Were any of your classes online?

No.

Q:  Did you consider other programs?

I looked at the St. Rosa Community College, but they were fully enrolled at the time.

Q:  Why did you choose the one you did?

Empire’s a great school, and I was already familiar with one of the teachers. She’s a highly skilled phlebotomist, she’s extremely encouraging. I mean, it’s drawing blood.   It’s not easy and it can be really intimidating, so she’s there to help you get your nerves together. I just really like the professionalism and everything. Even though they are more expensive I was already familiar with the school.

Q:  What other programs did you consider?  Why did you choose the one that you did?

I had an opportunity to go to school up to a year so the medical assistant program was six months so I decided to take advantage of the rest of the time I had. I knew the phlebotomy program would give me another certificate so possibly I could get more jobs and also just have that extra practice. You’re more skilled.

Q:  Would you recommend this school to someone else?

Absolutely. They’re very professional especially for someone who’s younger and doesn’t have a lot of job experience they make sure you really take it seriously. It’s extremely fast-paced you have to be on top of things. They have tutors that they provide, and they do help you with financial aid if you need it. The people at the front desk, teachers and even the president – they all want to see you succeed. In the end the student has to put the work in, but they are very dedicated to their students.

Q:  For your particular program, are there any special licenses or certifications that you need to receive before getting a job?  If so, what are they and what do they entail, and will you get them by the time you graduate?

Under the medical assistant certificate you are allowed to draw blood but it won’t allow you to be a phlebotomist. If you want to be just a phlebotomist, you have to take the program, then you become certified with the school which allows you to sit on a national exam it’s a long process, but they do give you all the information. You do have to do it yourself.

They have a prometric testing center on the school campus so for their certificate programs, you can take your national or state exams at that school. For medical assisting you need to take a state exam, and you don’t necessarily need that school certificate, you can do it through work experience then you can take the state exam, but you’re more likely to get a job when you have it this way, to prove you went through the school program.

Q:  Any other advice to those considering a similar program?

In order to be a phlebotomist or a medical assistant, you need to make sure you like working with people. You do your lists of pros and cons. For example, lets say you work in pediatrics, do you want to work with kids? Really you have to figure out what your values are. If you’re not a people person you probably shouldn’t be working in medical fields.

If you are interested in phlebotomy or in medical training programs in general, please visit our California Medical Training schools page to find a program near you.