Dangerous Liaisons - UW Libraries

October 11, 2017

Supporting Clinicians with Their Information Needs through Education

Frances Chu

Practicing clinicians – doctors, nurses, physical therapists, etc. – taking care of patients need information to help inform their practice and determine how best to care for patients so that they receive high quality and safe care. Even though the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) no longer specifies the need for libraries or librarians within a healthcare organization, UW Medicine clinicians have the advantage of belonging to the University of Washington with its large library system that includes a health sciences focused library. One service of special importance is the educational programs provided by the librarians to the clinicians.


“Clinicians” may sound like a highly specialized group, but they are not so different from other students, faculty members or researchers. They must be information literate and fluent. They need to realize that scholarship is a conversation, that research is inquiry, authority is contextual and constructed, format is a process, searching as exploration, and information has value. Like any librarian, health sciences librarians are teaching searching the literature where, as Knapp and Brower (2014) state, “With the fifth concept, Searching as Exploration, we finally return to the real meat of what we do as librarian instructors: teach students how to identify, locate, retrieve, and record information sources”.


How do we teach the practicing clinicians at UW Medicine? Like other librarians, we are guest lecturers during orientations and early in the medical year (which begins July 1 for clinicians), we are asked to teach at boot camps for nurses and we have one-on-one and small group training sessions. The content can vary somewhat by profession, but most information seeking relates to direct patient care. To this end the health sciences has a few specialized databases called Point of Care tools, such as DynaMed and UpToDate. These consist of aggregated evidence-based healthcare information that can be rapidly retrieved, reviewed and applied, as we discussed in Dangerous Liaisons last week.


Knapp, M. & Brower, S. (2014). The ACRL Framework for Information Literacy in higher education: Implications for Health Sciences Librarianship. Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 33(4), 460-468. DOI: 10.1080/0276869.2014.957098