Despite the fact that I am originally from Montreal, I did not
graduate from GSLIS1 at McGill but I did complete the final
4 courses of my MLIS as a part-time visiting student and so am apparently
qualified to share my experiences with the readers of The Marginal.
my degree in the spring of 2005 and have had an interesting couple of
years since then, culminating in the creation of two erstwhile nonexistent
part-time positions at the Jewish General Hospital (JGH), and the successful
launch of an innovative new service at the hospital’s family medicine
clinic, the Herzl Family Practice Centre (HFPC)2.
exactly six months spent searching applying to LIS jobs all over North
America and paying the bills with temporary and ultimately unsatisfying
non-LIS jobs I got a call from my GP at the Herzl wondering if I had
time to spare to help her with a Reference Manager database. So began
my (ongoing) career as Information Management Consultant.
a few months I was working steadily part-time and had several clients
at the Herzl. Aside from entering records into bibliographic databases,
I was soon able to support the research activities of the physicians
at the clinic by conducting literature searches and editing research
papers in preparation for publication, as well as being invited to participate
in a research project which involved studying the health information
needs and seeking-behaviour of adolescents.
I could remember the exact moment when I had the idea to create an in-house
information service for patients and families at the clinic, but I don’t.
I only know that the idea jibed with the direction the clinic had been
wanting to take with their Patient Education Initiative.
in the early months of 2006 the Herzl agreed to pay me to write a proposal
to conduct a needs assessment. That summer they accepted my proposal
and I conducted the needs assessment.
of that year the Herzl funded my trip to the Society of Teacher’s
of Family Medicine (STFM) Conference on Practise Improvement: Patient
Education and Health Information, in Denver, CO, where I presented a
poster based on the results3. I was only one of two librarians
at the conference and the only one presenting.
be wondering at this point what my background is and what courses I
took to prepare me for working in the field of medical librarianship
4. I have a BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design,
and spent a couple of years studying creative writing. My only exposure
to medical databases and MeSH subject headings was in my Information
retrieval class at SLIS. Fortunately my teacher had a particular interest
in health topics and so many of the examples we were exposed to were
very relevant to what I would eventually do. Other courses I found most
useful were some of the ones I enjoyed the least while in school. Research
methods and Systems come to mind. Information literacy was also extremely
much of the past couple years of working at the hospital have been spent
learning on my own about concepts such as Evidence-based medicine (EBM)5
and patient-centered care. Some of this I learned as I conducted searches
for physicians, some by reading LIS/medical literature and taking online
courses, some of it by osmosis. A large portion of the needs assessment
proposal was an extensive literature review. This allowed me to focus
much of my time and energy on learning about other key concepts: existing
models for the provision of consumer health information, health information
needs and seeking-behaviour, use of the Internet to find health information
and the effect on this of the digital divide, health information literacy
and literacy issues, the doctor-patient dyad, doctor-patient communication,
information overload of health professionals etc.
say that my background in fine arts and creative writing have stood
me in good stead. Many of the skills I learned were transferable. Two
of the most important skills I learned at art school that have been
particularly useful are:
creative problem solving i.e. translating an idea or concept into reality.
· critical thinking
to backtrack now to that spring of 2006, at which time I was asked by
the chief librarian at the hospital library if I would temporarily take
a position because her serials tech was going on maternity leave. I
was simultaneously asked by the Herzl to take over as Research Assistant
as she too was going on mat leave6. In what proved to be
an unusual but ultimately wise choice, I chose the lower paying tech
position and recommended a friend of mine for the other position.
librarian was happy to let me run with whatever ideas I had (and hers),
so long as the serials were in order. By the time my stint as serials
tech was coming to an end, I didn’t want to leave and she didn’t
want to lose me. Over the course of several months we worked together
to propose to the hospital that a new position be created for me at
the library. We argued that it was necessary, and in keeping with current
and evolving trends in the area of medicine and health information,
for a second librarian to be hired at the library in order to meet the
increasing need to assist users (health professionals as well as patients
and families) to find accurate and up-to-date information. At the same
time I was negotiating with the Herzl to begin implementation of the
early months of 2007 I was officially hired by both parties. I am now
Patient Information Coordinator at the Herzl and Patient Information
Specialist and Instruction Librarian at the library7, proving
that not only is it possible to create something out of nothing, but,
even more miraculously, that the health care system can be
changed, maybe just a tiny bit, but still.
this goes without saying but I will say it anyway: this particular alchemy
is only possible in an environment where change is welcomed (however
difficult it almost always is for everyone involved, even when said
change is known to be positive), where creativity is fostered and unconventional
solutions are encouraged. You may be surprised by the fact (I know I
am, having studied both fine arts and creative writing) that, perhaps
by necessity, health professionals and librarians are some of the most
creative and unconventional thinkers I have so far encountered, and
amazingly willing to take risks.
Herzl Patient Health Information Service (H-PHIS) opened its doors on
the 2nd of July of this year. I have recently started the blog mentioned
in the title, which does a much better job of describing the service
than a few more paragraphs here could. So without further ado, I present
to you the InfoRx
that reading about my experience will encourage those of you who are
wondering how the hell you’ll find a job once you graduate (especially
here in Montreal, let’s face it) and what the f**k this degree
is worth anyway.