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DDHHS transfusion nurse takes message to the world

25 July 2018

DDHHS transfusion nurse Susan Kay.

Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service (DDHHS) transfusion nurse Susan Kay joined a host of international delegates at this year’s 35th International Congress of the International Society of Blood Transfusion (ISBT).

"The ISBT International Congress is a biennial event with speakers coming from all over the world, so when my extract was accepted and I was invited to this year’s event in Toronto, Canada, I felt enormously honoured," Ms Kay said.

"It was an absolute privilege to be able to represent the DDHHS and speak about what a transfusion nurse does in a large rural and regional health service.

"There was plenty of interest in the way we implement patient blood management protocols, and in the quality systems we use to ensure that blood is treated as a precious resource.

"In some countries that we would think of as very highly developed, there are still challenges with establishing the role of transfusion nurses, so I was very happy to share information about how we have done it in the DDHHS."

In her role as a transfusion nurse Ms Kay regularly travels to regional locations throughout the DDHHS, and sometimes beyond, to provide workshops and education sessions about advances in blood product usage, iron deficiency and haematology.

This weekend Ms Kay will be one of more than a dozen speakers presenting at the first-ever Toowoomba Iron Symposium.

"We are absolutely delighted to be working with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service (Blood Service) in presenting the Toowoomba Iron Symposium, and we would like to thank the Toowoomba Hospital Foundation for their tremendous support of the event," she said.

"The symposium will cover a range of topics including interpreting iron studies; how to manage iron; emergencies; and patient blood management, with presentations from haematologists, general practitioners, and obstetricians.

"We are very excited to be presenting the findings of a study project that we started last year, in conjunction with the Blood Service, which involved measuring iron levels in pregnant mums and offering those who were iron deficient a simple intervention, in the form of supplementary iron medication.

"Iron deficiency in pregnant women was identified as a significant issue in our area, with up to 80 per cent of pregnant women affected.

"When it occurs in the first trimester of pregnancy the expectant mum is likely to be suffering from anaemia by the time her baby is born.

"Anaemia causes a feeling of weakness and makes you less able to cope with the physical stresses of childbirth, so what we have seen since the project started is a great uptake by expectant mums, who are then feeling much better at the time their babies are born.

"The project was the first in Queensland, and mirrored similar studies done in conjunction with the Blood Service at Canberra Hospital and Adelaide Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

"The three projects, as a collective, have been nominated for an Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) Award which is a great honour."

Wendy Fry, Nursing Director for Women’s and Children’s Services at Toowoomba Hospital, said the efforts of all involved in the project were contributing to optimising outcomes for expectant mothers.

"It’s fantastic to see that this project has contributed to standardising care for a very common problem," Ms Fry said.

"It’s been a collaborative effort with our maternity department’s medical and nursing staff doing a great job of collecting and interpreting data about iron deficiency.

"We are hopeful that the iron medication intervention that has worked so successfully for mums here will be taken up as standard practice over the Darling Downs and further around the state."

The Toowoomba Iron Symposium will be held this Saturday 28 July at the Highfields Cultural Centre. Anyone interested in should go to for more information.

Last updated: 3 August 2018