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Health Education: Understanding the Four Types of Blood Donation

Health educators help raise awareness about blood donation and other important health issues.

When you give blood, a single donation could save up to three lives.1 Donating blood is a great way to give back to your community and make a real difference for others. Whether it’s used in an emergency trauma situation, to treat a cancer patient, or to help a chronically ill child, there’s a good chance your blood will save a life.

In the U.S. alone, someone needs blood every two seconds,1 and 4.5 million people have blood transfusions annually.2 The need for blood is great, but there’s simply not enough to meet the demand.

Health Education: Understanding the Four Types of Blood Donation

For many public health professionals, their jobs include leading health education programs that aim to address the global blood shortage. Health educators work around the world to raise awareness about blood donation and how people can help.

For example, the American Red Cross heads up health education campaigns to increase the public’s understanding about not only the importance of donating blood, but also the different types of blood donation. The organization states, “Giving the ‘right’ type of blood donation—based on your blood type and patient needs—helps ensure the best use of your valuable contribution.”3

What are the different types of blood donation? Here’s a quick overview:3

1. Whole Blood Donation

When you think about donating blood, this is probably the image that comes to mind: you at a blood drive, reclined in a chair, while a pint of your blood is collected in a nearby plastic bag. This is a whole blood donation. Whole blood has many uses. It can be transfused in its original form—most often to help trauma or surgery patients. It can also be separated into red cells, plasma, and platelets. All blood types can donate whole blood.

2. Power Red Donation

This type of donation, also called a double red cell donation, is all about the red blood cells. The experience is similar to a whole blood donation, except your blood is drawn into an apheresis machine that collects only the red blood cells and returns your plasma and platelets to you. Red blood cell donations are typically used for trauma patients, newborns and emergency transfusions during birth, people with sickle cell anemia, and anyone suffering blood loss.

3. Platelet Donation

Platelets are those tiny cells in your blood that form clots and stop bleeding, and they are often needed to treat cancer patients and others with life-threatening illnesses and injuries. During a platelet donation, an apheresis machine collects platelets and some plasma, and returns the red cells and most of the plasma to you. Platelets are collected at donation centers only.

4. Plasma Donation

A plasma-only blood donation also uses an apheresis machine to separate the plasma, and then returns your red cells and platelets to you. Plasma is given in emergency situations to help stop bleeding and can be used to treat burn, trauma, and cancer patients. Those with an AB blood type are ideal plasma donors because their donation can be given to patients of any blood type.

Help Raise Awareness About Blood Donation: Become a Health Educator

If you want to increase public understanding about blood donation and help solve other important health challenges, a career in health education could be a great path for you.

What is a health educator? And what does a career in health education and promotion look like? Essentially, health educators are specialists who teach people about behaviors that promote wellness. Their jobs include designing and leading public health programs that aim to improve not only individual health, but the overall health of their communities.

To become a health educator, you will likely need to earn a health education and promotion degree. The good news is that you can earn a degree online. When deciding which degree program is right for you, look for an accredited university with online courses that prepare you to sit for the national Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) and Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) exams.

Walden University offers one of the few online degree programs dedicated exclusively to health education and promotion. Walden’s MS in Health Education and Promotion program can prepare you for a number of health educator opportunities in academic, clinical, community, or corporate settings.

By earning a master’s in health education and promotion online, you can advance your education and prepare to make an impact on the health of your community.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Health Education and Promotion degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,