Nova Scotia

Union questions non-nurses as blood donor screeners

The Canadian Blood Services' move to replace registered nurses with less-trained technicians could endanger lives, the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union says.

The blood collection agency's move to replace registered nurses with technicians could endanger lives, the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union says.

Canadian Blood Services is planning to train non-nurses to screen and assess potential blood donors. No nurses will lose their jobs, but they will be replaced as they leave.

Janet Hazelton, president of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, said that raises questions about public safety.

"We all know what happened in the 1980s with the whole blood scandal with HIV and hepatitis — that was because individuals were not screened properly — and we are very uncomfortable that once registered nurses are replaced, that could happen again," she said.

Hazelton said nurses are experts in making medical assessments.

"It comes with being a nurse," she said. "We do very thorough assessments each and every day, and it's a skill set I believe that nurses and physicians have and no others."

But Mark Donnison, a national executive with the blood service agency, said using trained screeners has worked in other countries, such as the U.S. and the U.K.

Besides, he said, nurses are trained by Canadian Blood Services to assess potential blood donors.

"When a nurse joins our organization, they're not trained in how to conduct health screening, so that's something we spend a lot of time on with them to get them skilled up and ready to perform that function," Donnison said.

Donnison said there's also a nursing shortage that's interfering with some of the 20,000 blood donor clinics held each year.

He expects it will take about a year before the first group of non-nurses is trained.