Logistics of managing blood donations

Getting from A to B (and every blood type in between)

A science degree along with experience in running a household removals company might sound like an eclectic CV. But it’s the perfect combination of theory and ‘real world’ experience that has brought John Christiansen to New Zealand Blood Service (NZBS) where he leads the Logistics and Customer Services team for the Northern Region.

“It’s an unbelievably good combination for me really. I can’t believe I managed to find a job that drew upon both of my strengths and passions.”

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It is no mean feat being responsible for the nation’s stock levels. The Logistics team is the lifeblood of the organisation, connecting all the departments in NZBS together from collections through to processing, to ensure that the right product is at the right place at the right time.

So how does one prevent a ‘logistical nightmare’ that could mean the difference between life or death?

“Planning, planning and more planning!” John insists.

“I’m a stickler for numbers and problem solving – if anyone ever wants to know how to get something from A to B, I’m the go-to guy. I love having a good problem to solve.

“It’s about carefully managing all of the 3,000 weekly donations nationally, manufactured blood products, not to mention all of the consumable items used during the blood donation, testing and processing procedures. At any given time, blood stock levels must be able to meet demand, which can fluctuate quite a lot. It’s all about expecting the unexpected. We need to ensure a steady supply for scheduled procedures such as patients with cancer and surgeries, but sadly we also always need to be prepared for a car crash victim that may need multiple units of blood anywhere in New Zealand.

“During the holiday period, the logistics can sometimes get a bit more complicated, but at the end of the day, there is a constant need for blood so it really just comes down to having a tried and tested plan in place.

“Depending on when Christmas falls each year can also make things difficult - particularly when you have blood products with a short shelf life like platelets which have a five-day life span. Sometimes we’ve had to ask donors to come and donate on Boxing Day, but thankfully our incredible donors happily come in.

“My job is extremely varied and I’ve had to solve lots of weird and wonderful problems. But the one thing I haven’t had to do yet is order a helicopter. Touch wood I won’t have to do that any time soon, because I know that behind every logistics issue is a person in need of the blood we supply – someone’s brother, mother, child, or friend.”

To book an appointment to donate, click here or phone 0800 GIVE BLOOD.

Published on: 22 Jan 2014

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