Blood donation: ‘Sofa day’


How to get more blood donors? Make it more convenient to donate! In many of the Finnish city’s student unions and universities annually organize ‘donation days’. On these days it is made possible for students, and people in the neighborhood, to donate blood right at the university. So they can donate without the trouble of going to the donation center of the Red Cross.

Student union Kåren organizes this almost every fall and every spring for the campus area in Turku. To encourage more students Kåren sometimes even organizes contests involving other student organizations. Every organization is dared to ‘win’ by having the most people willing to donate. Often around 20% of the people who show up are not allowed to donate, yet for the contest they are still counted as participants.

We have to arrange with Verivalpelu to come all the way here and bring all their stuff to our building. To make it profitable for them we should at least have 50 people who donate blood”, Says Monika Antikainen the Social Affairs Specialist from Kåren.

In case of Kåren, the mobile blood service at the university is in total initiative of the student union. They arrange it, pick a date and check if the Red Cross is available then. Sometimes it happens that Kåren can’t organize a donation day at the campus area because the Red Cross is just too busy.

”We can’t just say we would like you this or that day. It is more or less the case that the Red Cross tells us when it is possible”, Says Monika Antikainen.

Blood donation; Service

Of course there is also a profit for the Red Cross Blood Service. With the mobile service arrangements they are able to get a lot of extra donors.

Still there are also a lot of people who walk in at the Red Cross Blood Service to donate. together these people provide around 270 000 bags of blood per year, to help more than 50 000 patients who need blood. The Finnish Red Cross Blood Service has to earn its own money by ‘selling’ the donated blood to the Hospitals. Although it is a non-profit organization it does not receive any funding from the government. This means the Blood Service has to compete with other (private) health organizations without any financial benefits.

”All the nurses, all of the people that are working with us, have their own stories and their own reasons. But we know that the Red Cross is very appealing to nurses. We just learned from a recent study that the Red Cross Blood Service is the 4th most popular job provider for nurses in Finland”¨, Says Willy toiviainen Communications director at the Red Cross Blood Service.

The Red Cross seems to be a very popular employer. Yet opposite to private health organizations, the Blood Service is not able to offer the nurse’s huge salaries or big promotion opportunities. What makes it attractive to work for the Red Cross Blood Service?

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Like all the other companies the Red Cross Blood Service provides its employees with good training and education opportunities. But it appears the Red Cross is set apart by the social atmosphere the work environment offers. This is of course not only provided by the Red Cross itself, but also depends on the many people who come in to donate their blood.

Donating approved

Donating blood appears to have many restrictions. For example you can’t donate blood if you have traveled recently, if you weigh less than 50 kilo’s or if you are on medication. The first time a donor comes in to donate a few, some very personal, questions are asked. All of this to keep the donor as well as the donated blood in good and healthy conditions.

”Afterwards we offer some coffee, sandwiches and refreshments. Because it’s important for their health that they feel good after the donation. When we take blood it is about half a liter, so you lose half a liter of fluids from your body. So that’s a reason why you have to fill up a little bit with a drink, some food. And take it easy for the rest of the day. We like to call it the Sofa day”, Says Willy Toiviainen.

Besides the sandwiches and drinks the Red Cross is not able to offer anything else to the donor. If the Blood Service would offer more luxury a donor might lie about his/ her health in order to get ‘paid’. This would be a huge risk in the national health sector. The safety on the use of donated blood depends partly on the honesty and trust of the donor. Who is the donor? And why does he or she donate?

”The whole blood service system in Finland, as in most of the countries in the world, is based on voluntary donation, People don’t get paid. We think that this is very important, because it is the first step of safety as well”, Says Willy Toiviainen.

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