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December 27, 2014 / Christian M.

Gaining Experience Delivering Consumer Health Information in a Hospital Setting

Ever since my days working in a public library, I have been interested in consumer health information services. My experience with this type of information in the public library was very limited, but I realized the importance of patients and caregivers having resources written at their level of understanding to help them make informed decisions. During the first year of my fellowship with NLM, I completed my certification with the Medical Library Association’s CHIS program, but haven’t had the opportunity to put this training to use….until now.

A librarian brings a book cart to a patient in a hospital (circa 1969). Photo from Thunder Bay Public Library.

A librarian brings a book cart to a patient in a hospital (circa 1969). Photo from Thunder Bay Public Library.

As you know, I’m spending the second year of the fellowship at Welch Medical Library, which serves Hopkins University students, faculty, and staff. I’m really enjoying my experiences providing instruction and research support to the School of Public Health. Welch Library does not provide consumer health information services. However, there are some hospital libraries in the Hopkins health system that do. So I decided to schedule some “field trips” to see what opportunities might be available.

First I visited the Family Resource Library at the Hopkins Children’s Center. This library is managed by a solo librarian who provides leisure reading and health-related books to pediatric patients, and some health information to parents and caregivers. The library has a beautiful space with big windows. I enjoyed my chat with the librarian very much. My next visit was to the Harrison Medical Library & Community Health Library at the Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. This was actually my second time visiting, you can read about my first visit three years ago here.

The Community Health Library provides a circulating print collection of consumer health books, computers, and printouts of patient education materials. The librarians also collaborate with nurse managers, physicians, and patient educators to provide health information to patients and caregivers at the bedside and in outpatient clinics. I am really interested in the health information services they provide, and the patient care and education committees they are involved in. So I asked if I could spend some time there learning and assisting with their patient services. This request was approved by both my supervisor at Welch and the Director at Harrison Library.

Now I spend one day a week at Harrison Library, and the rest of my time is at Welch Library. Some of my activities have included:

  • Shadowing during the delivery of health information resources & leisure reading to patient rooms. I’ve shadowed twice, and will have the opportunity to visit patient rooms on my own soon.
  • Covering the information desk in the Community Health Library.
  • A literature search on using patients and family members as teachers for medical education at the request of one of the a hospital advisory committees.
  • Attending various hospital committee meetings related to patient care, such as the Patient Education Committee, and the Geriatric Community Advisory Board.
  • Talking with the library director about services, budget, management, collection development, and more!

I’m excited to be gaining more experience in providing health information to patients. It’s an awesome opportunity to be able to work in both an academic and hospital setting. Looking forward to sharing more with you all soon!

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