May 7, 2021

Making blood transfusions safe

Janice (Jan) Stevens has been a Northern Health patient for eight years. She came to Northern for the first time when her haematologist suggested participating in clinical trials, and in the meantime has also become our Standard 7 consumer representative.

Jan has a rare condition, Cold Agglutinin, which is connected to blood cancer. For the last eight years, she has been coming to hospital in various intervals for tests and blood transfusions.

“There was a period when I had a blood transfusion every Saturday, for 11 months,” she said.

More than a year ago, Jan joined the Blood Management Committee.

“I saw a poster in Day Oncology and thought maybe that is something I can do to help the hospital, as they help me so much. Day Oncology staff are absolutely wonderful. I don’t have a science background, but I guess my contribution is around how they represent themselves to patients and communication with patients,” she said.

“One of the things I remember doing was reviewing a new pamphlet. I helped review the language and ensured patients understood what is written there. It’s all about communication.”

The Standard 7 Blood Management Committee oversees the transfusion practice and management of blood and blood products at Northern Health. The Committee is there to ensure the transfusion practice is safe and appropriate.

“Blood is a very precious product and there isn’t an unlimited supply. The Blood Management Committee oversees that we use this resource appropriately, so that we can protect our future generations. If we don’t use it appropriately and wisely, we cannot be assured that the blood will be available for future generations. That is why the committee is ensuring we are not wasting blood, and we are practising safe transfusion,” Betty Dumayas, Transfusion Nurse Consultant explained.

“Blood comes from other people, and when we give it to someone else, we want to make sure it is safe.”

To ensure safety, the team uses the Blood Administration Chart, which is one of the most important documents in blood transfusion.

“It is important that the blood product is traceable. That means when you give it to a patient, we can trace back when it was given and from whom, and in case an infection happens, we can trace it back. This blood chart helps us trace the blood product – it’s called the look back process,” Betty added.

The chart also contains other relevant information, such as patient consent and similar.

“We are now using an amended version and implementing improvements was a long process. With the new chart, revised by the committee and Janice, we now have a better, more compliant chart, which conforms with the Standard 7,” Betty said.

The Blood Management Standard aims to improve outcomes for patients by identifying risks and using strategies that optimise and conserve a patient’s own blood, as well as ensuring that any blood and blood products that patients receive are safe and appropriate.

Featured image (left to right): Janice (Jan) Stevens and Betty Dumayas