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Former Certified Nurse Assistant turns to FastForward for a career in phlebotomy

When Melinda Mutter was working as a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) at a hospital in Southwest Virginia, the long hours, never-ending patient requests, and overflowing list of to-dos were exhausting. That’s when she started talking with the phlebotomy technicians—the trained medical professionals responsible for drawing blood from patients—and learned about a new career opportunity.

It wasn’t long before Mutter connected with a career coach at Southwest Virginia Community College, enrolled in classes, and was on her way to becoming what she calls “the powerhouse of the hospital.”

Understanding the role of a phlebotomy technician

Phlebotomy technicians are critical to patient care at hospitals, and they start the diagnosis process by drawing blood for testing. Without phlebotomists, doctors and nurses can’t properly care for patients or monitor important blood-related illnesses.

 “We’re the ones they call the vampires. We come in with our little carts or our little carriers, and we go and get blood and you know, whatever else is needed, and take it to the lab,” Mutter said. “We’re kind of like the powerhouse of the hospital. Because without us, basically nobody else could move forward with their job.”

Smart career move

When asked about making the decision to go back to school to earn a credential through FastForward, Mutter shared that it was a life changing decision.

“[Going back to school] was the best thing I’ve ever done, because I absolutely love my job. I look forward to going to work, and I haven’t had that in a long time,” Mutter added.

Part of Mutter’s love for her new role comes from getting to spend more time connecting with patients, which she found difficult racing back and forth as a CNA.

“This job allows me to connect with the patients,” Mutter said. “And I have a lot of people that are like revolving doors: they’ve got chronic illnesses and things that are there quite frequently. I’ve become good friends with a lot of patients, and I enjoy that more.”

Mutter said having 12 patients all at once in her CNA role was a lot to manage and deciding to take a different approach to the medical field was the best decision she has made in her career.

Support in and out of the classroom

Another highlight of Mutter’s experience with FastForward came from the relationship she formed with her career coach and instructor. From helping her choose the right classes to acing her coursework, credential exams, and job interviews, Mutter always felt a step ahead.

While learning how to stick patients with needles seems unnerving, Mutter shared that you have plenty of time to practice in the classroom, and her instructor Pam helped everyone feel comfortable.

“[Pam] was right there with us. We felt like she was on the same level with us, even though she was teaching, but she was just very easy to talk to,” Mutter said. “There was no such thing as a dumb question, and anytime, anytime we were nervous or whatever she she’d be like, ‘It’s okay. You know, you’ll get this it’ll come with time.’”

With practice comes perfection, and Mutter has become proud of her sticking abilities.

First times a charm

When a phlebotomist draws blood on the first try, it’s a big deal. For Mutter, this has become second nature.

What’s her secret to success? Classroom practice, experience, and knowing how to spot a good vein are all key ingredients. And similar to when you purchase a new car and then see it out on the road all of the sudden, Mutter has started to notice people’s veins much more closely, which has sharpened her skills.

“It’s almost like finding a treasure when you see a patient and you are looking at both sides of their arms,” Mutter added. “It’s kind of fun when the phone comes for me. It’s like okay, you know, how am I going to get this one, you know?”

Making a difference

Needles and blood are usually high on most people’s list of greatest fears, and Mutter acknowledges her role in helping patients understand that getting blood drawn isn’t a big deal. When patients know they’re in good hands, it makes all the difference.

“It’s like they trust me more. They’re dependent on me to be a professional, depending on me to be able to do my job,” Mutter said. “It kind of puts us on a different level than you know, the other medical fields.”

Are you ready to provide top-tier patient care like Mutter? See how you can start your phlebotomy training through FastForward by visiting