Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Improving Community Well-Being through Collaborative Initiatives at a Medical Library

Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Improving Community Well-Being through Collaborative Initiatives at a Medical Library

Article excerpt


As the world becomes increasingly digital, the role of the library is rapidly changing. In a recent article, Adamowski, the 2015 president of the Illinois Library Association and Wheaton Public Library director, is quoted as saying, "We have to always be at the front lines of the needs of the community.. .Each library was the same a long time ago, but each community is different.. .[and needs] different services" [1]. Considering this, public and academic libraries have been expanding their functions and evolving the use of their spaces to meet community needs [2-4].

The stress of modern health care professions is well established. The rate of physician burnout is estimated to be around 45%-50% across specialties [5], with similar levels among nurses [6] and emergency department physician assistants [7]. Furthermore, physicians have some of the highest suicide rates, ranging from 1.4 to 2.3 times greater than that of the general population [8, 9]. Nurses also have a suicide risk 1.6 times greater than that of the general population [10].

Health care students can also suffer from debilitating stress. Several studies demonstrate higher levels of depression, stress, anxiety, and suicidal ideation in medical students compared to the general population [11-13]. Between their fourth year of medical school and first year of residency training, 73% of doctors-in-training will meet criteria for psychiatric morbidity, particularly depression, anxiety, or substance abuse [14]. These individuals often do not report symptoms due to fear of stigma and marginalization [15].

Providing wellness activities such as mindfulness meditation or spaces for self-defined care can help health care professionals cope with stress. Mindfulness meditation is the practice of intentionally and nonjudgmentally directing one's attention to present moment experiences [16]. In addition to improving psychological capacities like attentional and emotional self-regulation [17], mindfulness training has been recognized as a viable treatment to prevent recurrent depression and depressive relapse [18-21] and even as a potential preventative for such disorders, helping to counter behaviors such as rumination that precede and cooccur with depression [22, 23]. Mindfulness meditation in health care professional settings can decrease burnout and psychological stress, improve empathy, and increase well-being among nurses and primary care physicians [24-26], as well as among nursing and medical students [27-29].

Academic libraries are increasingly offering mindfulness meditation sessions [30, 31] and dedicated self-defined care spaces [32-34]. Although no single type of programming will appeal to all individuals, each person has the capacity to identify their own self-care needs, whether a quick nap, meditation, journaling opportunity, or yoga. Providing spaces for wellness activities can also support the diverse spiritual and religious needs of health care professionals and patients, with one study suggesting that spirituality has powerful protective benefits against burnout in the health care field [35]. In fact, creating spaces for prayer is not a new idea as chapels have historically been available at public institutions such as hospitals and prisons and are appearing in airports and shopping malls. Today, these spaces are being rebranded as sacred spaces to be more inclusive of a variety of religious practices [36].


Librarians at the Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library (CWML) wanted to develop concrete ways to help ease stress and improve the well-being of our health care professional community through providing mindfulness activities. CWML's community consists of faculty, students, residents, fellows, researchers, nurses, post-docs, and staff from the Yale Schools of Medicine and Nursing, and the adjacent Yale-New Haven Hospital. Librarians approached Being Well at Yale staff for advice on how to start a mindfulness program, and, through informal conversations, they were connected to two students from the School of Medicine and School of Public Health who were interested in collaborating in these efforts. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.