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Transfusion Medicine: My FIRST Year

Author: Crystal Brunk, Regional Transfusion Medicine Clinician, Provincial Health Services Authority
St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC

Just over a year ago I jumped…I saw a job posting that intrigued me, it was for a job I had never heard of “Regional Transfusion Medicine Clinician”. Having been a nurse for over ten years all I could think was who and where is this person because I have questions?! FYI this person did not exist where I was working…and spoiler alert this person was about to be me.

Ready for a change (and a challenge) I applied having only basic transfusion knowledge and by basic, I mean I had given some RBCs, a couple units of platelets but what exactly are factor products? So I studied up and went to my interview. The team that interviewed me who are now my transfusion medicine family (#TMFam) had an infectious energy and passion for transfusion medicine and after the interview all I wanted was the opportunity to work with these people. Looking back, I question how I got hired with next to no transfusion medicine knowledge, but the team saw something…hopefully they are still happy with their decision as I quickly became a troublemaker, I mean agent of change.

Ready or Not…

Hitting the ground running…or sprinting was more like it…there was a lot to do and every time I learned more about transfusion medicine the list grew exponentially. There were standards to learn, procedures to update, safety events to follow up on, oh and both DAP and Health Canada audits in the next six months. I soon became the link between laboratory staff and clinical staff doing teaching while still learning the new language of transfusion medicine. Now I said the dreaded word “audit” - let's look past the stress, anxiety and sleepless nights that it provides us all to Susanna Darnel, our “dreaded” auditor. I joke as Susanna was anything but dreaded, she was passionate, knowledgeable and part of the CSTM and without knowing it she was one of my first supporters outside of my direct team. Susanna gave me information about my new transfusion community and encouraged me to go to the CSTM conference and get involved. More on that later.


The second pivotal person in my transfusion journey was my mentor…who I am sure did not know when I called her frantically one day that she was going to become that person to me. I first met Clare O’Reilly at resource group meeting and as mentioned ended up calling her a month or so later frantically because I was in over my head, I do not think I even said hi when I called her but jumped into my problem, Clare provided leadership and resources which she continues to do (daily sometimes). Clare inspired me as she does others with her passion, she also nudged me to go back to school and as the stars all aligned, I applied and got into the University of Melbourne’s post graduate transfusion practice certificate program (see Clare’s previous blogfor more information). The program has been amazing as it is not just for nurses, I am lucky to have a technologist in my class who continually expands my thinking and gives that alternate perspective because we all know nursing and lab do not always speak the same language and as I learn to be more fluent in lab I value those taking the time to teach me, again #TMFam.


Going to my first CSTM conference opened more doors by people who were excited about transfusion and valued the newcomer, albeit I was incredibly nervous to go. I applied for and was fortunate enough to receive the Macopharma Bursarywhich supported my attendance but also got me deeper into the transfusion world. I thank those who reached out to me at the conference, invited me in and engaged me. As per Julie’s CSTM challengefor this year I intend on passing this forward and reaching out to new faces at next years conference. There was another CSTM ask and that was for a nurse for the annual conference scientific committee and after two immediate texts by conference attendees and a literal nudge by Clare I signed up and have been privy to great discussions about what is going on in transfusion medicine and am even more motivated to learn and be involved. As some know I have also become the CSTM representative with the Canadian Nurses Association and am actively trying to get the voice of transfusion medicine nurses heard, thank you to all CSTM nurses for your willingness to contribute #TMFam.

It is all about the PEOPLE…

I could not have enjoyed my first year in transfusion medicine more and as you can see transfusion medicine for me is all about the people: the people who saw something in me and hired me with no transfusion background and continue to support me daily, my mentor who I won the lottery with (just figuratively) and the CSTM members who welcomed, guided and continue to encourage me in the transfusion medicine world. We are all #TMFam and I encourage everyone to share their own story!


Thank you Crystal for writing this blog. I seem to be walking into the same path as you from having a basic knowledge of transfusion medicine. I have been a nurse for 8 years and I am still working casually as this new role; Transfusion Safety officer is a part-time capacity. I have just started 2 months ago and already involved in so many changes within our organization. Reading your blog is really inspiring and I do think I will look into taking the certificate program in Melbourne.
7/21/2020 2:04:50 PM

Thank you for the kind works Crystal; you are a wonderful addition to the TM community.
6/18/2020 8:57:40 PM

Gwen Clarke
Crystal, thank you for a great blog about your leap into TM. And thank you for all of the great work you are doing - not just at your new job, but also with CSTM and for the Canadian TM community. Your passion is infectious - and reminds me that my involvement with CSTM has been among the most rewarding aspects of my professional life. Welcome to the Canadian TM family!
10/17/2019 10:00:53 AM

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