Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

In a New Element: Medical Librarians Making Patient Education Rounds

Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

In a New Element: Medical Librarians Making Patient Education Rounds

Article excerpt


Englewood Hospital and Medical Center is a medium-sized community hospital with a daily census of approximately 250 beds. We are a teaching hospital with 675 medical staff, 40 internal medicine residents, and 90 B.S.N. nursing students in affiliation with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Ramapo College of New Jersey. In addition, we have an affiliation with Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York, with surgical residents and medical students who complete rotations at our hospital.

Two librarians, the director and nursing librarian, along with four volunteers, are responsible for the operation of the Health Sciences Library. For over twenty years the library staff has provided consumer/patient information to the public and patients, usually via call-in requests. Educational and informational packages are mailed out, delivered to patients' rooms, or picked up.

During the last three years the Health Sciences Library has collaborated with the Meland Foundation-Network for Medical and Health Information.* Its founder, Robert Nelson, established an office for the foundation on the second floor of the library. The mission of the foundation is to provide information and inspirational literature to patients and families. Because of the availability of the Meland staff, a secretary and five volunteers, some of whom are trained in searching for patient education information, we were able to develop a performance-improvement project for 2002. The project included making patient education rounds to increase the number of patient education requests coming from the nurses. The Meland Foundation and staff have supported the library staff by doing some of the research for the patient education questions.


During January 2002, only five nurses called the library for patient education information. In April 2002, the two librarians at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center implemented the performance-improvement project and began making patient education rounds on twelve inpatient nursing floors in order to identify patient education questions and provide materials. As they made rounds on the hospital floors, they often heard comments from physicians such as, "What are you doing up here?" or "Ah-ha! You're out of your element!" One day, the response to this by the librarian was, "No, I'm in a new element. We make patient education rounds now and we're handling about 65 requests a month-from our patients!"

Sometimes nurses will have patient education questions and educational packages will be delivered directly to them; they review the materials and distribute the information to their patients. Sometimes nurses will ask the librarians to visit specific patients. We do not meet patients directly in their rooms unless there is a specific request to visit from the nurse. Presently, time limitations prohibit us from visiting families in waiting rooms. Information about the Meland Foundation and the library is posted in the waiting rooms and other areas of the hospital inviting patients to visit or call.

The following is an example of a typical day as the two librarians made their rounds. Lia Sabbagh, nursing librarian, visited the cardiac floor. The head nurse asked her to provide information on a variety of topics that could be set up in folders for use on the floor as part of the nurses' patient education program. Subjects included arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, pacemakers, atrial fibrillation, cardiac catheterization, lowering cholesterol, cholesterol and exercise, insulin, and diabetic diet. This type of project takes several days to complete.

Kathy Lindner's visit that day was to a medical-surgical unit on the fifth floor. She made a list of each nurse's assigned patient room numbers. As each nurse was located, the following sentence would open the dialog: "Hi, I'm Kathy from the library and I'm making my patient education rounds today. …

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