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A librarian in the OR

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2007 - Autumn


When medical librarian Denise Hersey, M.L.S., overheard Paul G. Barash, M.D., HS ’74, professor of anesthesiology, joke that he wished he had a librarian in the operating room, she took him seriously. While Hersey does not enter the OR itself, she comes pretty close: every week she spends several hours answering questions in the anesthesiology lounge in Yale-New Haven Hospital’s south pavilion.

Anesthesiologists face the universal problem of figuring out how to access information on the Internet. As Barash puts it, “You have a paradox: you have an overload of information and an inability to get it.”

Hersey’s regular visits to the OR suite solved that problem. As a librarian for liaison activities, she could use the visits to forge a connection between the library and the department. Anesthesiology faculty members and residents began asking for her advice on Internet search strategies.

Soon Hersey began brainstorming with the department’s chair of education council, Viji J. Kurup, M.D., assistant professor of anesthesiology and assistant director of medical studies, to find new ways of searching the Web. They held a PDA-loading party at which they showed faculty and residents how to load electronic medical resources into their personal digital assistants.

Kurup and Hersey also enlisted residents to record definitions of anesthesiology keywords so that their fellow residents can listen to them on MP3 players in preparation for board exams. When Hersey noticed that the doctors kept hanging journal club articles on a bulletin board, she posted them on an electronic bulletin board.

“It’s been fun,” said Hersey, who now serves on the department’s residency education committee.

Kurup knew that Hersey was making contributions but, like any good scientist, she wanted proof. A study Kurup conducted found that faculty and residents significantly increased their electronic searches for articles in key anesthesiology journals. Kurup presented her findings at the summer meeting of the Society for Education in Anesthesia.

Barash is enthusiastic, too. “It opens up all of Cushing Library to those whose hours don’t let us go to the library.” The medical librarians, he said, have “reinvented themselves.”

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