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Washington Hospital Coordinator Rallies Community During Critical Time

Blood drives – and the coordinators who power them – play a vital role in supporting hospital patients in their community and, when the need arises, others across the country. Few are as familiar with the critical role of blood drives as the hospitals who rely on those donations.

For Pullman Regional Hospital’s volunteer coordinator, Nikki Nolt, being a blood drive coordinator for the past 5 years gives her the opportunity to ensure patients are supported when they need transfusions.

“I have always enjoyed donating blood,” said Nikki. “The great feeling that you get afterwards knowing you helped someone is indescribable. My goal is to share that feeling with everyone!”

Hosting monthly blood drives, Nikki’s team at Pullman Regional Hospital ensures donors throughout their eastern Washington community can regularly donate blood. Together, they’ve brought in more than 500 donations since the onset of the pandemic, with nearly 200 donations in 2021.

“Being in a rural community, it was important to me to give everyone the opportunity to donate without having to make a substantial drive to a donation center,” said Nikki. “There are many people eager to donate blood, but don’t have the time to get to a center or may not have one nearby. Hosting a blood drive takes that barrier away from donors. The more barriers we take away, the more donors we have.”

Many people believe that most blood is needed after major disasters. However, daily personal emergencies and ongoing medical needs of thousands of patients require a constant and ready blood supply. It’s the blood already on hospital shelves that saves lives.

“People shouldn’t wait until there’s a crisis to donate,” said Nikki. “There’s a constant need for donors.”

When Vitalant saw an urgent need for donors around the 4th of July weekend, Nikki’s team added an extra drive to the calendar and looked for ways to spread the word to bring in as many donors as they could.

Partnering with her Vitalant donor recruitment representative and Pullman Regional Hospital’s lab director, Nikki and her team reached out to their local newspaper and shared the importance of blood donation from the hospital’s perspective.

“As a hospital, we’re a 24/7 and 365 day a year facility,” said Nikki. “I know that people are often on vacations or too busy to donate around the holidays, but here at the hospital we have a captive audience every day of the year so we can roll up our sleeves!"

Nikki says some of her most effective strategies for getting donors to sign-up include face-to-face asks, going door-to-door with sign-up sheets, and having a real conversation with people about the importance of donating.

“When you ask someone in person to donate blood, especially first-time donors, it gives them a chance to express all of their doubts and fears,” said Nikki. “There have been countless times I’ve cleared up misinformation and converted someone terrified of donating into a lifelong donor!”

“It’s great seeing someone so involved,” said Joe Fairbanks, Vitalant’s donor recruitment representative for the region. “Nikki and the Pullman Regional Hospital [team] worked really hard to get the word out how critical it was for blood donations at that time and as we look into the future.”

Thank you to Nikki and the Pullman Regional Hospital team for being amazing examples of how thinking outside the box can support the community during a critical time. Your dedication to your patients is inspiring and encourages others to help make blood donation accessible in their communities.

Article published for the Vital Connections newsletter.