Blood Donor Motivation: A Limited Review of the Literature

By Boe, Gerard | Journal of Continuing Education Topics & Issues, April 2009 | Go to article overview

Blood Donor Motivation: A Limited Review of the Literature


Boe, Gerard, Journal of Continuing Education Topics & Issues


Many hospitals throughout the United States are struggling to keep a sufficient supply of whole blood and blood products on hand. There is no substitute for blood and the increasing demand and decreasing supply has put many patients in jeopardy.

The increased demands are a result of a rising number of admissions and increased use of blood transfusions in major surgery. The reason for the decreasing donations are many and varied. Among them are: a shift in urban populations with a loosening of family ties and friendships; more patients who have families who may be too ill or infirm to donate; an increase in individual prosperity, allowing patients to pay for the blood rather than replace it; and also there exists a basic widespread unwillingness to donate.

Despite the development of plasma substitutes and other products, advances in the freezing of blood for stockpiling and autologous transfusion, and the use of specific blood components, for the majority of patients, there is no substitute for the direct use of fresh whole blood.

Behavior is motivated by our needs and is therefore purposive and is directed towards goals that will meet these needs. What need, if any, motivates an individual to voluntarily donate a unit of his blood for use by strangers? Or we can look at the other side of the coin, why do people not donate their blood? Many studies have been conducted to try to answer these two questions.

Motivation Defined

Motivation is defined by Morgan and King1 as a general term referring to various states that motivate or cause behaviors. They postulate a motivational cycle that consists of three aspects: the motivating state, the motivated or resultant behavior, and those conditions that satisfy or ease the motivating condition.

Basically, motives--or driving forces--can be divided into two classes: the unlearned drives and the learned drives.

Unlearned Drives: The unlearned drives are often called primary drives and they may emerge in the normal maturation of the person. They may be physiological and have their origin in some internal need of the body. Or they may be general in nature. These drives do not seem to stem from any physiological requirement, but they are unlearned.

Physiological drives are stimulated by (1)external stimuli, (2) tissue needs, or (3) hormonal substances in the blood. General drives include such concepts as body activity, fear, curiosity, and affectional drives.

Learned Drives: The learned motives are called secondary motives. Actually, the motives are not learned, but through learning, certain stimuli arouse motive states, and goals that satisfy the motives are modified. Learning affects motivation in two basic ways: (1) In what is called classical conditioning, those stimuli that were previously neutral can come to arouse a motivational or drive state; and (2) through learning, new or secondary goals can be achieved which satisfy the motive.

Every action of man is motivated by unsatisfied needs; people are always seeking to do something that has meaning to them in terms of their own particular needs. Once a man's physiological and safety or security needs are satisfied, his social needs are the prime motivators. These social needs consist of the need for belonging, for association and for acceptance by fellow man. These then are the needs we can exploit in our attempt to motivate volunteer blood donors.

Background on Studies

The ability of physicians to transfer blood from one individual to another with a margin of safety is a great therapeutic tool. Storage property of whole blood and the physiological characteristics of blood donation are the cause for a required periodic replacement.

Another problem that is often encountered is the possible lack of type specific blood. Unless in an extreme emergency, the ideal practice is to administer type specific blood. While the lack of blood is not widespread, the lack of type specific blood is occasionally a problem. …

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