Blog Post: Annual Meeting Update

October 12-15, 2013

As a blood bank supervisor, I always appreciate the opportunity that I have to attend the Annual AABB meetings. This year’s meeting was held at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver Colorado and was full of great learning programs; peer to peer learning groups, and CTTEXPO visits and networking opportunities. Since the recent transfusion medicine focus (for me and my colleagues)has been in providing the right blood product to the right patient at the right time, I chose to spend approximately one third of my educational time attending patient blood management sessions and the rest of my time in Colorado attending scientific,technical/clinical, and quality/education programs as well as visiting the vendors in the CTTEXPO.

Membership by Year

Our membership has exploded!

Before the learning sessions began, the annual meeting opened with Aron Ralston, “fearless adventurer” and subject of the film“127 Hours”. I was hesitant about going to the session because I was uncertain how being trapped in Utah for 6 days had anything to do with the blood bank industry. Since I am an optimist, I decided to attend the session and found myself intrigued by his story and very moved by it.  He spoke in detail about his journey while being trapped for 127 hours which included the onerous task of cutting off his arm. There were both mental and physical preparations in order for him to accomplish this, but in the end when he finally figured out how to go about doing so, it saved his life. As he spoke, it became apparent that he was an optimistic person who regained his strength (after failing multiple times) by thinking about the people in his life who were very important to him (family & friends) and the experiences that he still had to live for. Later on that same day while I was reflecting on the contents of Aron’s presentation, I realized that in any career or personal journey it’s the failures that mold us and make us stronger and it’s the individuals in our lives (family, friends, coworkers) that help us to recover from those failures and come out stronger in the end.

The first learning session that I attended after Aron Ralston’s eye opening presentation was a technical program entitled: “CSI –Who DAT?”. The program was presented by 3 BB specialists (SBBs) using case studies that compared warm autoimmune hemolyticanemia due to delayed transfusion reactions to drug induced hemolytic anemias (which can sometimes mimic a delayed transfusion reaction). The presenters spoke knowledgeably about the cases and reminded the audience that serologic testing is not always clear cut and in order to provide additional data and provide blood for future transfusions, genotyping is often necessary.

A short time later that same day, I attended a patient blood management class entitled:  “How We set up a Preoperative Anemia Management Program”. It was presented by Aryeh Shander, MD, Thomas Vetter, MD, MPH, and Andy Patterson, RN, MSHA. The  three presenters were excellent speakers and shared their own experiences from both an Anesthesiologists’ point of view and from an RN/Hospital Administrator’s point of view. The two MD presenters highlighted studies and shared data that supports the fact that post-operative outcomes are better in the non-transfused population (both cardiac and Orthopedic). They also discussed that patients who are followed and treated pre-operatively for their anemia require less transfusion and their post-operative infection rates and mortality rates are much lower as compared to their transfused counterparts. The third presenter started out his career as an RN and is now a Hospital Administrator at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).  He spoke about his experiences as a transfusing RN and then discussed the importance of hospital administration’s “buy-in” for the support of a pre-operative anemia management program. While highlighting the successes of the UAB program he shared the acronym “PACT”(Preoperative Assessment Consultation and Treatment Clinic) which is used at UAB to describe their program. He also indicated that it takes a network of individuals for pre-operative anemia management to work as designed and that ongoing educational initiatives for the physicians and transfusionists is necessary for safe patient transfusing practices.

New to the AABB annual meeting this year were Peer to Peer learning and round table discussions. The sessions were informal and were held in the CTTXPO hall. They were facilitated by AABB staff/assessors. The topics included Management/Staffing Issues,Navigating Your Career Path, Adapting to Industry Changes and Staying Informed. I attended the Management/Staffing Issues round table discussion with 3 other individuals and we discussed staffing shortages, competencies, and the effects of the aging population of technologists on the future of laboratory medicine. Overall I felt that it was an hour of worthwhile discussion/conversation that was also an opportunity for networking with other individuals who experience similar issues in the blood bank industry.

Another learning session that I found interesting was a program entitled: “A Bridge to Somewhere: Making Connections Between Your Transfusion Service and the Rest of the Hospital”. The presenters were Karen Dallas, MD from Saskatchewan, Canada

and Justin Kreuter, MD from the Mayo Clinic. The focus of this session was on identifying key stakeholders outside the laboratory(Nursing, IT, Risk Management, Emergency Dept., Operating room) that the blood bank staff could interact with and influence for the purpose of aligning goals, behaviors and processes. Dr. Dallas spoke about the eight steps towards leading change. Those steps include establishing a sense of urgency, forming a powerful & guiding coalition, creating a vision and communicating that vision,empowering others to act & believe in the vision, planning for and celebrating short term wins, consolidating improvements and producing more change, and finally institutionalizing new approaches. Dr. Kreuter discussed the importance of medical education and the utilization of electronic options for ongoing education within the medical community.

As in past meetings, I attended the CTTEXPO on two occasions during the weekend in order to visit with vendors and network with other blood bankers. There appeared to be fewer vendors set up this year but the interest in the vendors was still apparent as was in past meetings.

In my three and a half days in Denver, I attended the opening session, 8 educational sessions, the CTTEXPO, and one peer to peer round table discussion. Overall my take away from the Annual AABB meeting was returning to New Jersey prepared to tackle additional Blood Management initiatives as well as to improve my department’s communication and interactions with those outside the laboratory in the hopes of having a positive impact on patient safety.

I’m already looking forward to attending the 2014 AABB meeting in Philadelphia.