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Health information and medical research Exercise

Exercise 8
Due: Day 7
Before completing this week’s activities, review the overview, December 9, 2011, PubMed, PubMed Central, and MedlinePlus – What’s the difference? by Lea Leininger a health sciences librarian at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Slides are available at PubMed. A more detailed webinar for Librarians on PubMed presented by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) PubMed for Librarians: Introduction is very helpful. The presenter provides numerous search examples. The presentation also includes information on MeSH terms (PubMed’s controlled vocabulary), PubMed’s contents (primarily Medline). Note: PubMed is a collection of citations (non-Med and Medline). More on PubMed and MedlinePlus below.
So far in the course we have seen how government information sources, such as the Nation Center for Health Statistics, can be used to locate health information on the wider population, such as the percentage of the population without health insurance or the rate of diabetes in adults. This week’s activities look at two additional sources from the government: PubMed and MedlinePlus, both from the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine. Both sources provide health- and medical-related information but meet different information needs. For example, the clinician or medical student might use PubMed to locate published studies on the use of steroids as a treatment for asthma while a parent whose child was recently diagnosed with asthma might use MedlinePlus to locate information on treatment options and identify questions he should ask his family doctor at their next appointment.
As this week’s reading from the Cassell and Hiremath text stresses, “reference librarians, who are trained in the art and science of answering questions, must be constantly aware that they are nonspecialists and should calibrate their responses accordingly” (2013, p. 175). In this class you have heard again and again that librarians cannot give advice or interpret information located for a patron conducting medical, legal, or business research. It is important that you understand these professional boundaries as well as your own limitations as a non-specialist. As Cassell and Hiremath note, “…there is a hierarchy of criticality in providing the right reference resources [in these subjects]. In all probability, the obsolete cancer resource has far more negative impact than an obsolete book of linguistics” (p. 176). The authors’ point is that mistakes in assisting patrons with this type of research can have consequences beyond the potential legal and ethical ramifications of practicing medicine without a license.
If you are interested in learning more about medical or health librarianship, I would suggest starting with the Medical Library Association (MLA) or any of the organizations and resources suggested by Leininger in the webinar. Of note, MLA publishes a solid selection of instructional books on many aspects of health sciences librarianship such as the health reference interview and providing consumer and patient health information—some of which are available through the USC Libraries


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