Vermont Nursing Students Embrace Platelet Donation as a Class Act

Vermont State University students respond to critical need for whole blood and platelets

The Red Cross is facing an emergency blood shortage. The lowest number of people in 20 years are giving blood, per the nonprofit. Shortages are not uncommon in the U.S., as the number of donors has fallen 40 percent in the last two decades. When nursing students in Vermont State University’s first-year class learned about blood and blood products and the critical need for them, several classmates strongly felt the need to start donating—and the idea spread. 

“We support each other, and we work hard together,” Miranda Berry, class president, said.  “We all started out as strangers, and we’ve become a family. Typically, when one person has an idea, it just floods our group, and everybody just pitches in and joins. This happened with the Red Cross and donating. We were all talking about community service, and how the platelet and blood need is in such a heightened state right now. So, this would be a way to give back to our community and the people in need. We’re all here for nursing, and here to help people and heal people. This is just one way to support our drive and what we’re meant to do,” she remarked.

Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer of the Red Cross, confirmed the need for both platelets and whole blood.

“One of the most distressing situations for a doctor is to have a hospital full of patients and an empty refrigerator without any blood products. A person needs lifesaving blood every two seconds in our country—and its availability can be the difference between life and death, however, blood is only available thanks to the generosity of those who roll up a sleeve to donate.” 

Stephanie Couturier, chief executive officer, American Red Cross Northern New England Region, heartily agrees.

“As a mom of a child who has needed blood, shortages like this hit close to home,” she noted. “Many people do not think about the strength of the nation’s blood supply or even where blood comes from until it tragically collides with their lives,” she added.

The nursing group also has a personal connection to blood and platelet donation. One of their classmates, Alex Blair, is a Leukemia survivor who required multiple units of blood and platelets during her treatment, ultimately resulting in complete remission. To show support for her and others like her, the nursing class has made a collective commitment to donate.

“I’m so proud of our nursing students, who understand how important blood and platelet donation is to the people they’ll care for,” expressed David Bergh, interim president of Vermont State University. “Because it’s so crucial, our Castleton campus was the host of the first day of this year’s ‘Gift of Life’ blood drive marathon.’”

A professor of the nursing class, Dr. Mary Hill, also stated she couldn’t be prouder of her students. 

“This is a very compassionate group. When an idea happens in this group, it just floods. It’s like fire. I think their compassion for human life is spreading across the campus. I think everybody sees that. It’s going to carry into practice as well,” said Hill.

In addition to being a professor of nursing at Vermont State University, she is also a hematology/oncology nurse at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington. 

“I witnessed firsthand patients who need these products. Platelets are what stop you from bleeding out and if you don’t have them, you can’t survive. The treatments we give to save lives, won’t be saved without platelets,” Hill said.

Hill’s experience drove her to ensure her nursing students know how important platelet donations are to patient care and she was successful. 

“Platelets save lives, quite literally,” explained Berry. “I am becoming a nurse to help people and to see the difference that I can make as a nurse and as myself, donating something that I can give to somebody to give them life, is just incredible and such an amazing feeling. I’m very fortunate to be able to give. It’s just a miraculous experience,” she said.

Platelets play a critical role in the treatment of millions of Americans fighting cancer, chronic diseases and traumatic injuries. Every 30 seconds, someone in the U.S. needs platelets. Low platelet count is a major side effect of cancer treatment. Some types of chemotherapy can damage bone marrow, reducing platelet production. In a platelet donation, an apheresis machine collects a donor’s platelets along with some plasma, returning red cells and most of the plasma back to the donor, allowing them to donate more often. Many of the students in the class are now regular blood and platelet donors. Each of them has their own reason for why they donate.

“I started donating due to a lot of sickness and illness in family members. I really felt the need to be able to give back. It’s a very easy way to do it by donating blood or platelets,” said Sharon Derner, another first-year nursing student.

Berry and the rest of her class hope that donating platelets will continue to help the group bond together while serving their community. 

“We started signing up individually. We’ve also gone as groups and just donated. Some of us have donated blood and some of us have donated platelets. It’s continuing to grow and grow,” said Berry.

In addition to the satisfaction they get from donating and helping others, Berry and Hill both agree that the process of donating platelets can also be a very positive experience. 

“The process was very simple. I don’t think I felt a single bit of pain. It’s very peaceful and calming,” said Berry.

“It was actually a nice way to get away from everything and just sit there and not be bothered by the world, but knowing at the same time you’re helping somebody,” Hill added. “I have never donated platelets before, and I did it with Miranda for the first time about a month ago. It was very positive.”

Since platelets must be used within five days of donation, platelet donors are constantly needed. Combined with the national blood shortage, that’s why there’s a constant — and often critical — need for new and current donors to give to keep up with hospital demand. Schedule an appointment to donate today by visiting

“The reality is every two seconds someone in this country needs a blood transfusion – and that lifesaving gift is not available if not for volunteer donors,” Courturier stressed. “It’s the blood on hospital shelves that saves lives in an emergency, so I urge you to make 2024 the year you resolve to roll up a sleeve and become a blood donor.”