Rachel Thorpe_1

Dr Rachel Thorpe

Featured Researcher

Rachel is a social researcher who completed her PhD in Sociology from La Trobe University in 2015.


Rachel has a particular interest in using qualitative approaches to gain insights into the meanings of practices that people engage in, including blood and plasma donation, and how these change over time.


She is currently involved in a range of projects to do with donor behaviour, investigating ways to improve the recruitment and retention of donors.

Quick facts about Rachel

I’m really into sewing and when I have time I make some of my own clothes, as well as pieces for my daughter and others as gifts.  I find it so satisfying to make things from scratch and be able to wear them.

Like a lot of us in Australia I’ve been stuck in various forms of lockdown on and off for the past two years. Right now I would love to be anywhere far away from Melbourne, perhaps in Japan relaxing at a Ryokan.

In this job I work with a lot of people from different backgrounds both inside of and outside of the research team and it’s refreshing to consider things from their perspectives.

Probably some kind of exercise, like yoga or swimming and then visiting a gallery and going out for lunch.

Be resilient and put yourself forward. It look me a while to realise that I needed to take up any opportunities that came my way, even when they weren’t exactly what I was looking for, and not to take it personally when papers and grant applications are reviewed unfavourably, to learn from the experience and try again.


In her recent DoRN Week of Talks presentation, Rachel discusses two studies that explore how ageing and being older shape experiences and expectations of blood donation in Australia. The first study is a qualitative study exploring donors perspectives on donating blood in mid-later life, and the second study is a survey of donors aged 70+ donating during a pandemic.


To learn more about Rachel’s work, please click on the free video below:

Q & As

The DoRN Week of Talks provided a unique opportunity to engage in an easy and convenient Q & A with presenters. Below we have listed the questions that we received for Rachel, along with her answers. 

I think there are several opportunities to offer older donors who are no longer active donors ways to be involved in Lifeblood. One way is through volunteering at their local donor centre. We have asked donors if they would be interested in volunteering once they are no longer donors and found that most, but not all expressed interest in volunteering. However not all donor centres have volunteers on site, so this is not an option for everyone.


Another potential way for older donors to transition to a post-donation identity within Lifeblood could be through recruiting friends and family members as donors. Research has found that donation values can be passed down within families, and that first-time donors often mention the influence of family and friends. As older donors already have knowledge about donating, for example about donation types, the donation procedure and minimum inter-donation intervals, they would be ideal to pass this knowledge on to others. Lifeblood could design a trial to ask older donors to recruit at least one new donor, and potentially set up a group of older ex-donors to share knowledge about how best to do this.


Given the knowledge that older adults have about donation, and their familiarity with what happens during a donation, they could also ‘shadow’ first-time blood or plasma donors at their first donation to provide reassurance to these donors. This could also be trialled to see whether first-time donor return is higher when they are shadowed by an experienced donor compared with a control condition.

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