Interview with: Erik Aerts, RN, Nurse Manager, President Haematology Nurses & Healthcare Professionals Group, University Hospital Zurich | USZ

Erik Aerts is a Nurse Manager who is responsible for the administration of blood transfusion procedures at the University Hospital of Zürich.

As a supporter of the Blood and Beyond initiative, he shared his views on the current blood transfusion landscape in Switzerland. As President of the Haematology Nurses & Healthcare Professionals Group (HNHCP), he discusses the educational needs amongst healthcare professionals and patients, differences in the management of the blood transfusion process and the need for European-level guidelines.

What does your role involve?

Our main role is to start the whole process when physicians prescribe blood transfusions. That means getting in contact with the blood bank, and – importantly – order the right blood products. When the blood products are ready, we are responsible for the full administration of the products. We are responsible for the full documentation of the blood products as well as the management of any eventual side effects from the blood transfusions.

What is the most challenging part of the job?

We treat inpatients and outpatients, both of which require very different time considerations. In the inpatient setting, we have more time as they are here already. When there are additional patients waiting for a bed, we have to speed up. For outpatients, most of them want to go home as soon as possible, so it’s important to schedule and be organised to prevent waiting times.

We need to ensure that every staff nurse has enough time to care properly for their patients. That includes providing patients and relatives with the right information to educate them properly on their disease, on their treatment, on the side effects of treatments. At this moment in time, that’s the most challenging factor.

What kind of information do patients receive? Is it adequate?

Educating patients is important, and challenging. You can prevent a lot of fear and a lot of questions if you invest a little bit of your time into proper education and information. Patients and their relatives would like to receive very clear short written information.

Sometimes patients are too sick or tired to listen to all the information, and then it’s often useful to have a relative that can tell their loved one what they need, help with communication and support, and to fill the gap.

Where do improvements need to be made?​

I think there is an educational need among nurses on the use of blood products, perhaps a simple educational tool such as online learning modules. Well informed nurses can in turn educate and support patients.

There is also an inconsistency in how guidelines are applied. I think, if possible, there should be European-level guidelines on blood administration because even in this city, in Zurich, different hospitals have different kinds of procedures. In practice this means there is a very clear disadvantage if you are going to another hospital as a patient or also as a healthcare professional, as the administration procedure is very different from one hospital to another. For patients this means that they could go to one hospital where it takes 30 minutes to administer blood products, but in another it can take hours. So, if you have clear written guidelines for everybody it will be a benefit for the hospital, for the patients and employers.