Research study update: How do donors’ emotions in-centre affect their future donation behaviour?

What was the question?

Blood donation generates many strong emotions. Although donors report a wide range of emotions before and after their donation, very little research exists on how emotions can promote donor retention.

We wanted to find out which emotions new and novice donors experience before, during and after donation. From this information, we hoped to track which in-centre emotional journey best predicts whether a donor returns. This study is part of a larger collaborative project between the University of New South Wales, University of Queensland, and the Lifeblood.

Why is it important?

Retaining blood donors offers many advantages compared to recruiting new donors: it’s more cost-effective and repeat donors tend to have healthier lifestyles and generally carry less risk of infectious diseases than new donors. However, in 2015, only 46% of first-time Australian blood donors returned to donate within six months. Understanding which emotions are important for new and novice donors will help us develop new ways to keep these donors coming back.

What did we do?

We asked blood and plasma donors with fewer than three prior donations how they felt throughout the donation procedure with a four-part survey. We asked them how they felt in the waiting area, on the donation chair before the needle was inserted, while donating, and in the refreshments area. We examined whether the donor returned in the next six months and how this was influenced by the emotional responses.

A total of 1,152 donors participated: 414 first-time blood donors, 385 novice blood donors, 218 first-time plasma donors, and 136 novice plasma donors.

What did we find out?

When we asked donors to describe their emotional experience in one word, the word most mentioned by donors in the waiting area, while donating and in the refreshment area was ‘happy’. Donors in the waiting area and in the chair before the needle was inserted also reported feeling nervous, excited, relaxed, and calm. During donation, most donors felt relaxed and calm, and plasma donors in particular reported feeling interested. Donors in the in the refreshment area reported feeling relaxed, relieved, and content. Figures 1 and 2 show the frequency of the words reported in the waiting area and the refreshment area.

Emotions in the waiting area

Figure 1. Emotions in the waiting area

Emotions in the refreshment area

Figure 2. Emotions in the refreshment area

Our next step was to look at their six-month return behaviour. For blood donors, first-time and novice donors were more likely to return if they experienced feeling mid to high levels of joy and calmness, and low to decreasing levels of stress during their donation appointment. This suggests that efforts to improve joy and calmness, and decrease stress, during blood donation may improve return rates.

On the other hand, first-time and novice plasma donors were more likely to return if they experienced mid to high feelings of interest and calmness, and low to decreasing stress. It may be that interventions to increase levels of interest among plasma donors, in addition to enhancing calmness and reducing stress, will encourage return rates.

The finding regarding the importance of interest among plasma donors suggests that a donor’s level of knowledge about plasma donation is associated with their likelihood of donating again. Continued efforts to generate interest among plasma donors (e.g., through in-centre or digital materials) and to provide tailored information about the donation process and the consequence of their donation is recommended as part of the plasma strategy at the Lifeblood.

What are the next steps?

We have used the findings of this study to design an in-centre intervention which is being tested in two donor centres (Perth and Regent Arcade). New blood donors are asked to participate in the intervention in the waiting area and in the refreshments area. This intervention aims to increase feelings of joy and calmness, and reduce stress. We will test if this strategy increases the six-month return rate among new donors.

Want to know more?

If you would like more information, please contact A/Prof Tanya Davison.

We would like to thank the three donor centres (Brisbane, Town Hall, and Mount Waverley) who co-operated in the study, and the donors who participated.

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