Department: Editor's Memo
Have you ever become frustrated when trying to find evidence to guide a patient-care decision? So you resign yourself to the fact that there is no evidence to answer your question. If you then decided to consult a medical librarian, you are well aware of their worth, especially in today's world of evidence-based practice. Technology has not replaced medical librarians, and many hospital systems retain them to make the best use of technology related to information gathering. Well, now is the time to celebrate these important people as October is National Medical Librarians Month.
Members of the Medical Library Association (MLA), which was established in 1898, are “partners on the health care team, playing a vital role in the delivery of health care, in the conduct of medical research, in the education of health professionals...[and] in getting high-quality health information to the general public” (www.mlanet.org). The MLA expanded globally in 2005 and has members in 43 countries. The association plays a prominent role in legislative and social issues related to health information access for all who seek it (including countries with limited resources). This arm of the association is called Librarians Without Borders and engages in multiple partnerships with international agencies that share a common goal. MLA's website has an interesting slide presentation—Myths and TRUTHS About Library Services—that counters common myths with evidence that supports the reality (http://www.mlanet.org/resources/vital/). The presentation is targeted primarily at hospital administrators, but the content is applicable to any organization with individuals who need to access health literature.
A helping hand
You might recognize several of the myths. The first is the belief that healthcare professionals are savvy information seekers. The truth is that most busy direct care providers do not have the time to conduct thorough searches, the skills to do the most effective and efficient search, or knowledge of all available resources and search options. Therefore, we waste a lot of time looking for information, and most of what we find is not useful and generally does not help to answer our clinical question.
Another myth is that evidence-based medicine can be practiced with point-of-care software. In the clinical area, there are quick reference guides to help providers look up what to do for common problems, but more complex questions are generally not answered in these sources and require additional searching. Not all providers, however, have their own personal computer, handheld device, and/or smart phone at work and must share limited resources to gain access to electronic evidence while seeing patients. Others may choose not to use technology and prefer to seek information the old-fashioned way. Besides, the latest evidence is found in the most recently published studies and not necessarily on a website that is periodically updated. The medical librarian is trained to refine your search question and find and evaluate the most relevant results quickly. Your review, as a second round, is then shortened and likely more productive.
Utilizing their services
The theme for this month's celebration is, “Medical Librarians: Your Best Return on Investment.” We are all familiar with the term return on investment; you hope to gain more than you put into a venture. But a favorable return or profit cannot always be measured in dollars and cents. Medical librarians summarize their role well in the aforementioned presentation. “Librarians are part of the health care team. Finding the right information for the health care professional is mission critical. The end result is improved patient care.” So utilize the services your health sciences librarian has to offer, and continue to thank them—especially this month.
Jamesetta Newland, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, FAANP, FNAP