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Hospital Librarians Do What?!: They Constitute a Legit Profession, Y'all

by Erin Moore on 2023-04-05T05:09:00-07:00 in Education, Professional organization | 0 Comments

We're out there, walking among you (not necessarily in sensible footwear), perhaps with an unassuming air, waiting to answer your questions.

Better yet, we're ready and willing to spark vital curiosity and connect you with quality information resources to empower you to seek the answers for yourselves. We want you to be moved by the "Spirit of Inquiry"

Some of us have cat-fur embedded in our cardigans.

We are employed within 5,000 of North America's Hospital Libraries.

Some of us have even "shushed" a time or two but probably far less than you would expect.

One more clue: Batgirl (indeed, the super hero!) also had a PhD in this profession:_____________.

If you haven't guessed by now, we are Librarians. We hold Master's degrees in Library & Information Science, known as the MSLIS, MLS, or MS degree. 

After adopting a green-eyed cat, Edgar, and taking up knitting, I was on my way to librarianing with other cardigan-clad crazy cat people.  I took all of the required Information Science coursework and even landed a great assistantship teaching information literacy skills to college students.

But after my first role as an academic librarian, the "prototypical" path to librarianship really ended there for me. Soon, I would embark on a career as an accidental hospital librarian. And you know what?: supporting health care professionals whose patient-centered information needs are unique and urgent proved to be intellectually satisfying and humanizing. Before I knew it, I had entered into a profession with a storied history going back to the founding of the Pennsylvania Hospital Library in 1762. It was the year 2011 when I began my first official (Medical) Librarian position in support of nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, surgeons, administrators, residents, and physicians across the health system, and I've been practicing in this role ever since.

Nothing Says Professional Like Standards of Practice!

You may be surprised to know that Hospital Librarianship provides entry into professional organizations and memberships, credentialing bodies, and publishes its own official Standards of Practice. The most current standards, published in October of 2022, have added expanded duties to the scope of professional practice. 

Let's have a look at the 11 standards:

Standard 1: The librarian serves as the primary department head responsible for managing resources and services to meet the KBI [Knowledge Based Information] needs of the organization. The library has its own budget, and the library director/manager, as a department head, reports to the senior management of the organization.

Standard 2: Health care research and reference information systems and services are directed by a qualified librarian. Academy of Health Information Professionals (AHIP) membership is preferred. 

Standard 3: Informed by MLA’s commitment to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion, library staffing formulas and service level agreements guide human resource allocation.

Standard 4: The health sciences librarian, as the principal KBI professional in the organization, collaborates with the information technology team to ensure online resources and services are functional and available at the point of need, including in the EHR

Standard 5: Evidence provides the scientific basis linking KBI and improved patient care; enhanced patient education; support for performance improvement projects; patient safety functions; and student, nursing, medical, graduate, and continuing medical education.

Standard 6: The librarian provides evidence of an ongoing assessment of the information needs of the organization, and the development and implementation of a plan to provide appropriate resources, services, and technology to meet those identified needs.

Standard 7: The librarian actively promotes KBI services and resources to all user groups and provides documented evidence thereof.

Standard 8: All KBI functions are performed in compliance with applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations including but not limited to copyright, HIPAA (patient privacy and confidentiality), and vendor licensing agreements.

Standard 9: KBI resources are available to staff twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Standard 10: The term library refers to the department— physical, virtual or a combination thereof—and includes a qualified librarian and support professionals, services, and resources that when put together, best meet the information needs of the health care organization.

Standard 11: IT resources are available to support the library’s mission of providing KBI resources and services.

Standard 5 drives home the synergistic relationship between library workers, health care professionals, and evidence as it is linked to improvements in patient care, education, and patient safety. While shrinking budgets are an undeniable reality, I have to believe that in systems where skilled library professionals are supplanted with "volunteers," decisionmakers are uneducated about the valuable work librarians and information professionals are/should be doing in their organizations. We invest in what we value, and we value what we understand. 

Hospital Librarians are the untapped resource you need on your next quality improvement initiative or practice-changing project. Established research discusses the return on investment when you hire librarians and let them support you in improving patient care and clinical outcomes.  The best of us are not content to maintain the status quo (more on that to come!) and through collaboration and partnership understand that information must be shared freely and openly. If you're into podcasts, have a listen to a recent National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) production on medical librarians. 

Please stop by the Banner Health Library Services website to chat in real-time with a librarian and learn more about how we can support you. You will recognize us not by our audible "shushing" but instead by our curiosity, grasp of health care acronyms and medical terminology, domination of the MeSH database, readiness to meet you where you are, resourcefulness (of course!) and willingness to go the extra mile to find or create solutions to our shared challenges.


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