Blood transfusion: the patient's experience

Am J Nurs. 2011 Sep;111(9):24-30; quiz 31-2. doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000405057.23324.a8.


Objective: Blood transfusion is a standard treatment for anemia in both inpatients and outpatients. Nonetheless, few studies on the therapy have examined the patient's perspective. This study therefore sought to identify how well patients understand the role of blood transfusion in their treatment and whether it causes them discomfort.

Methods: All medically stable adults who had received a blood transfusion at an Ohio hospital over a five-week period in 2009 were identified; a convenience sample of 21 of those patients participated in semistructured interviews lasting 15 to 30 minutes. The researchers recorded and transcribed the interviews and performed a thematic analysis.

Results: Four themes emerged: paternalism and decision making, patients' knowledge, blood safety and administration, and the nurse's role. Participants said that because a physician decided the transfusion would take place, they didn't understand that there were other options for treating their anemia; pretransfusion written materials weren't adequate to explain risks and benefits of the procedure; they had concerns about the safety of the blood supply; and they valued nurses' opinions.

Conclusions: These qualitative findings suggest that clinicians may be missing opportunities to improve patients' knowledge of and comfort with blood transfusion and that they can better meet patients' needs before, during, and after the procedure. Further research is warranted.

Keywords: blood transfusion, lived experience, patient education, qualitative research.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Transfusion* / nursing
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse's Role*
  • Ohio
  • Paternalism
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Safety