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How do we make sure our first time plasma donors come back?

Research Study Update: Development and evaluation of interventions to improve first-time plasma donor retention 

Phase 1: Interviews with first-time plasma donors

What was the question?

We wanted to understand what makes people decide to donate plasma, and how first time plasma donors decide how often they want to donate.

Why is it important?

Demand for plasma products continues to grow. To meet the demand, we need to recruit more plasma donors and make sure they return regularly. Currently, 59 percent of plasma donors return within four months of their first plasma donation and the average plasma donor donates 4.3 times a year.

What did we do?

We conducted telephone interviews with 26 donors who had given their first plasma donation within the preceding 7-14 days. We asked them about their experience of plasma donation and their intentions to return to donate. The donors we interviewed represented a broad mix of ages, genders, locations, and prior experience of donating whole blood. Each interview was approximately 25 minutes in length. We recorded and transcribed the interviews and then used thematic analysis to analyse the data.

What did we find out?

Most of our participants began to donate plasma because a staff member had asked them to consider it. Donors told us that our staff play a key role in educating them about the process of plasma donation and supporting them through their donation.

The participants said they felt good about their first experience of donating plasma and that they would return to donate plasma as often as they could. Even after one donation they felt that being able to donate more often was a positive aspect of plasma donation. Donors reported that the higher frequency would allow them to help people more often, and to establish a regular donation routine.

Despite this, most participants indicated that donating every two weeks was not possible for them given their other responsibilities and priorities. Several participants raised concerns about the health implications of donating whole blood regularly while donating plasma between their whole blood donations. Most donors indicated that their intended frequency of plasma donation was every four weeks. They reported this frequency as often enough to be a meaningful contribution but not so often as to become a chore.

What are the next steps?

The next stage of this project will test different approaches to contacting donors after their first plasma donation to see if they return to donate more often. This initial phase of the research has already resulted in several recommendations for the Blood Service:

  • Provide appropriate donor educational materials around plasma donation for staff, thus supporting their critical role in donor education. This would ensure donors receive consistent information.
  • Develop materials to help new plasma donors work out how often they wish to donate. These materials could be delivered either in-centre or through a telephone conversation. Other alternatives are a structured brochure or web-based materials.
  • Frame the normal donation interval for plasma as once a month. This period seems acceptable and practical for most new donors.

If you would like more information please contact Dr Rachel Thorpe (rthorpe@redcrossblood.org.au).

We would like to thank the donors who participated in the research.

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