These days it’s not only kids who attend camp.

At the University of Toronto, post-graduate medical residents spend five days a year in “transfusion camp” at St. Michael’s Hospital.

The camp has been running since 2012, drawing 60 to 80 residents annually from critical care, hematology, hematopathology, obstetrics and pediatric hemato-oncology.

For first-year residents working in anesthesia, attendance is mandatory. In addition to those taught by the medical faculty, several lectures and seminars are taught by Drs. Robert Skeate, Margaret Fearon and Nadine Shehata from Canadian Blood Services.

Before the camp, only 36 residents each year participated in one-month blood bank rotations.

“Transfusion is one of the most common procedures that happen in hospitals,” says Dr. Yulia Lin, an associate professor and transfusion medicine specialist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre who, along with Dr. Jeannie Callum, established the camp.

“The best transfusion is the most appropriate transfusion, and that’s what we’re trying to teach residents. In these specialties specifically, they’ll have to order transfusions during their residence and obtain consent from a patient for that transfusion. We want to make sure they have the knowledge to make those decisions.”

Topics of study include appropriate use and infusion, blood bank testing, risks of transfusion, indications for manufactured blood products, blood conservation, and special transfusion situations, such as infusing a patient who has sickle cell disease.

In the last few years, there’s been an increasingly restrictive approach taken toward blood transfusions. Blood conservation is something Dr. Lin says the camp tries to drive home to residents as they start their careers.

Dr. Lin spent nearly nine months at Canadian Blood Services during her own transfusion residency. Last year, she and Dr. Callum partnered with Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation to expand the camp to other medical schools. A pilot is planned with the University of Ottawa and they are looking ahead to offering it at other sites.

“We’re aiming to deliver the program in Ontario and other provinces, making it available in a format that different residency programs could use.”

Dr. Lin says assessments have shown that knowledge for all specialties improved across the board after attending camp. Those findings were published in the journal, Transfusion, this past August.

“It’s a nice way to show that the education had some benefit,” she says. “We’re really trying to influence how physicians prescribe transfusions, as ultimately it’s about getting the right product to the right patient at the right time.”

This partnership is just one way Canadian Blood Services is demonstrating its commitment to education and knowledge sharing to promote excellence in transfusion and transplantation medicine.