Call a doctor, or call a librarian?

ID-10099085If you’re in need of immediate medical attention, you’d best hightail it to your nearest hospital emergency room. Once you arrive there, your problem will be identified and treatment will begin. Maybe. Or maybe your condition is one that is so rarely encountered that your doctor will need the help of someone with more specialized knowledge about your  treatment. You may be surprised to know that the specialist your doctor calls is your hospital’s Health Sciences Librarian.

What? Wait a minute. Seriously? Call a librarian? Yes, indeed. Health Sciences Librarians are the unsung heroes/heroines of the medical profession. They directly impact patient care by helping physicians stay abreast of new developments in their fields.

A physician’s mind is crammed with all the information learned in medical school, but suppose your doctor graduated med school ten years ago? Twenty years ago? What’s new since then? Doctors are required to attend continuing education programs often enough to keep their licenses in good standing, but they can’t possibly keep up with all of the latest treatment methods used in the rarest of medical situations and conditions. Here’s one example:

Hypertrichosis, “Werewolf Syndrome”Image result for images of wolfman syndrome

In this syndrome, patients develop abnormal hair growth on their bodies. Their faces can be completely covered in long hair. The condition is on most lists of the rarest known medical conditions.

Your medical problem may not be as visually obvious as this one, but when your doctor needs help in order to diagnose and treat you, a Health Sciences Librarian may be the best source for rush information. A well-trained librarian knows where to find that information immediately—from the most credible sources—thus enabling your doctor to readily access literature that explains the condition and offers the most up-to-date treatment.

So take comfort in knowing that after you seek help from your health care provider, he or she  may turn to a little-recognized but highly qualified and capable medical information specialist—a Health Sciences Librarian.

Some characteristics of effective Health Sciences Librarians include: technological aptitude, creativity and curiosity, service orientation, ability to thrive in a constantly-changing environment, excellent communication skills and teaching ability. For more information about Health Sciences Librarians, including where they work, education requirements and earning potential, visit

Image of doctor courtesy of stockimages at