Navigating the Delicate Balance of Blood Supply

Jun 15, 2017 | Jackie O'Reilly | @jacquelineoreilly

Scott and Renee blog size

Providing adequate blood supply for our patients at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, is truly a delicate balance. Scott Hammel and Ranee Wannarka Farlinger, MLS(ASCP), from our inventory team recently sat down to explain the “ins and outs” of their crucial role at the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center.

What Does the Inventory Team Do?
The inventory team is "the bridge" between the clinical transfusion side and the blood donor side. The team members associate the needs for transfusions with the needs for collection. This is done by monitoring trends on both sides and providing the necessary communication among the staff involved in maintaining optimum blood supply levels. Wannarka Farlinger explained, “Most of the time, we have a set number of products, but once in a while, the clinical side knows that they have a patient with a scheduled surgery in a couple of weeks with a blood type that we usually don’t carry a large quantity of. [The clinic team] may tell us they think this patient is going to really bleed and ask us to increase the number of products that this particular patient will require. So, sometimes the numbers aren’t exactly in the optimal level . . . when anticipating a patient may need more than average.” It’s a very delicate balance, and at the Blood Donor Center, we never want to come up short, but we also don’t want to waste any precious blood products.

Wannarka Farlinger expressed, “It’s important we let the donors know how appreciative we are because in the donor chair, you don’t get to physically see the people you help.”

Scott and Ranee also explained that we are fortunate here at Mayo Clinic, because we have never had to cancel a surgery due to lack of blood product. When the patient need arises and the plea is made known, our donors have stepped up and provided the necessary product. Sadly, cancellations happen on occasion at other medical facilities due to lack of blood product.

Constantly Evolving
Hammel and Wannarka Farlinger expounded on the fact that things are always changing with blood donation regulations and transfusion technology. “It seems like every year, we are finding new reasons to defer donors,” stated Hammel. For example, changes in minimum hemoglobin levels as well as differences in travel deferrals both contribute to the decreased pool of eligible donors that the Blood Donor Center has to pull from. But looking at this from the patient perspective, “If [the blood product] was to go to our daughter, mother, father, spouse, etc., we would want it to be as safe as possible,” said Wannarka Farlinger. "Because of our efforts to provide safe blood product, patients who are weak, unwell, or perhaps holding on by a thread have the best chance to live."

Another challenge Hammel and Wannarka Farlinger discussed is the fact that the job never ends, as there are always transfusions going on—including weekends and holidays. While the need for blood is never-ending, the supply also has expiration dates, which vary for each product type. Red blood cells are good for 42 days. Plasma is good for a year, but now, some of the inventory is being drained and converted into products like cryoprecipitate ("cryo" for short). They explained that these other products are very beneficial to our patients, but they also cut into our much-needed inventory.

In summary, with the type of product used constantly evolving based on medical practice, combined with product expiration dates and numerous protective regulations, it is necessary to have a constant flow of blood donors throughout the year. This, in turn, provides Mayo Clinic with the essential resources to give patients the best care.

How to Donate
For more information about donating blood in Olmsted County in Rochester, Minnesota, call (507) 284-4475 or email For more information about the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center, visit or like the center on Facebook.

Interested in more newsfeed posts like this? Go to the Blood Donor Program blog.

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