July 25, 2008

Blood drive program expands to spur donations

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The American Red Cross’s Naterika Carter takes a donation from Joann Jenkins at a recent blood drive. (photo by Neil Brake)

Blood drive program expands to spur donations

The American Red Cross blood drive program at Vanderbilt Medical center is expanding to include a new recruitment structure, monthly mini drives and additional night drives.

The first mini drive will be Tuesday, Aug. 5, in rooms 2701-2703 in The Vanderbilt Clinic.

These drives are a smaller version of the main blood drives that are held every month from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mini drives will be held halfway between main drives at an alternate location, donation time will be shortened to 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and collection goals will be smaller.

“We wanted to take it to a different location so it's convenient for all employees to donate,” said Aileen Tackett, VMC's blood drive coordinator.

To serve those working third shift, the Red Cross held its first night blood drive June 12. Fourteen units of blood were collected.

“Our goal was 35, but 14 was great for the first time,” Tackett said.

The next night drive is scheduled for Sept. 17 from 7 p.m. until 11:59 p.m. in rooms 2701-2703 in The Vanderbilt Clinic.

The Red Cross is counting on a recent change in eligibility to increase the donor pool. As of July 1, 16-year-olds can donate blood with a parent's permission.

“The most frequent donors are actually 17-year-olds, so we're happy to be able to collect from this younger population. It's important for the blood supply,” said Steve Beeler, chief executive officer of the Tennessee Valley Region of the Red Cross.

The Red Cross has also restructured recruitment procedures at VMC, hoping to make it more efficient and ultimately increase donations. The new system asks each department to select a captain, who will join nine other selected captains to form a team. Twice a year, each team will help promote the monthly blood drives.

According to Bill Rochford, director of Client and Community Relations at VMC, the new structure will solve two issues: creating awareness and increasing staff participation. Captains will also be able to help potential donors navigate the system for scheduling an appointment.

“Department captains can receive training to access the Red Cross on-line appointment system and can encourage people to keep their appointment,” Rochford said.

The new recruitment structure will also allow a more personal approach because captains work solely with their department — the people they know best.

“The No. 1 reason people don't donate is because they say, 'No one has ever asked me.' The most important way to ask is face to face,” said Daniel Stockton, donor recruitment representative for the Tennessee Valley Region of the Red Cross.

Tackett hopes the new methods of recruiting will also be able to better communicate the improvements that Vanderbilt blood drives have seen recently.

“We have a much more efficient system for getting donors in and out in a timely manner. Blood drives have never been better,” she said.

Although the Red Cross recommends allotting one hour to donate blood, Vanderbilt blood drives have recently averaged 40 minutes per visit. The same charge nurse returns each month, which has increased efficiency, and there is rarely a wait for people needing to give their history.

Tackett encourages people to call the eligibility line at 1-800-GIVE-LIFE with questions. She also recommends potential donors check their eligibility yearly because regulations are constantly changing.

To sign up to donate, Vanderbilt employees should go to www.givelife.org and enter “vandy19” as their sponsor code. This will bring up a list of blood drives specifically at Vanderbilt, along with available appointment times.