Blog » The Experts with the Answers

The Experts with the Answers

Created Aug 30 2016, 08:00 PM by Lippincott Solutions
  • evidence-based practice
  • MLA
  • Medical Librarian Association
  • medical librarian
  • Magnet
  • clinical research

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Remember that article you read, the one about the study that demonstrated the effectiveness of that intervention on that population of patients you so often see? Or, now that you think of it, didn’t it actually suggest that applying the technique in a slightly different way had a major impact on efficacy and outcomes?

Regardless, that study is nagging at you and prodding you to take a second look at the findings and consider how they might apply to your work. But that was months ago. What journal was it in anyway? And how do you go about getting your hands on it in the limited time you have?

Two words: medical librarian.

Medical librarians are the experts in your organization with all the answers — or at least the tools to find them. And if you aren’t taking advantage of their know-how, you’re missing out on a very helpful resource.


Medical librarians are professionals with a master’s degree in library and information science who specialize in health sciences and medical content. You can find them working in hospitals, academic settings, special libraries such as those in cancer treatment centers, corporate libraries at pharmaceutical and insurance companies, and other settings where quality health information is valued. (But, no, they’re not the ones pushing the cart of well-worn paperbacks from room to room to help patients pass the time.)

Medical librarians commonly help nurses, physicians, and other healthcare providers find the research they need to make important evidence-based decisions. They work with print as well as electronic sources. They conduct searches themselves and teach providers how to perform quality searches on their own. Plus, medical librarians have subscriptions and connections to journal article databases, giving them access to complete studies and not just the abstracts.

They also take the time to distinguish solid health information from suspect. Their work helps hospitals cut costs, lengths of stay, adverse events and boost evidence-based practice and patient outcomes .


For hospitals planning to pursue the Magnet designation, medical librarians are a crucial participant in the journey.  With a heart (and brain) for evidence, these information-gathering experts work with nurse leaders to find the information they need for organizational transformation.  The Medical Library Association describes the librarian-nurse relationship as a strong and collaborative one.


Medical librarians can assist patients and their families seeking information on diagnoses and treatments. They also keep providers up to date on the latest news and best practices in a specific area.  Occasionally, medical librarians might even be called to provide medical information — STAT.

Recalled one medical librarian from an academic teaching hospital who discussed her work on reddit, “I had to get an article on some particular eye procedure and physically bring it up to the doctor when they were prepping the patient for surgery.”

Providing community outreach programs, supporting research, and teaching nursing and other students literature-searching skills are other common aspects of medical librarian role.


With all they do, it’s really no surprise that a survey of more than 16,000 healthcare providers from 118 hospitals found that medical libraries and the staff who work there were perceived as valuable and impacting patient care. In fact, 75% of providers said the information they received from a library prompted them to “definitely” or “probably” handle aspects of the patient care situation differently. Patient advice, diagnosis, choice of medicines, treatment and tests were areas of reported change.

“The majority of those interviewed indicated that the information they obtained was relevant, accurate and current; would be of use in the future; was of clinical value; refreshed their memories of details or facts; resulted in a better informed clinical decision; contributed to higher quality of care; substantiated prior knowledge or belief; provided new knowledge; and saved them time,” researchers wrote in The Journal of the Medical Library Association.

“Interviewees reported that ready access to quality information resources helped them make better, safer, evidence-based decisions.”

Medical librarians are valuable members of the patient care team. How can you better incorporate their services to improve your performance?