University of Tasmania
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The role of the clinical librarian in Australia : a mixed methods investigation

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posted on 2023-05-27, 08:54 authored by Caroline YehCaroline Yeh
Health care has become a complex and pressured enterprise. Clinicians depend on information from many sources to incorporate into the delivery of safe, appropriate patient care. The skills and functions of clinical librarians have the potential to assist patient care teams to address their information and evidential needs. Clinical librarianship has been established for many years and much of the knowledge on the role is drawn from international literature. There is little known about the way in which clinical librarianship is being practiced in Australia. The purpose of this research is to investigate the role of the clinical librarian in Australia. In examining the roles and function of the clinical librarian attention was focused on the skills required and the activities undertaken in Australian healthcare settings. A pragmatic mixed methods approach was used to collect both quantitative and qualitative data, with a sequential explanatory design. The first phase of the study was an online survey distributed to a health librarian e-list, and the second phase was semi-structured interviews with librarians in hospital settings. Integration of the results occurred in the discussion phase. This study is the first to provide baseline data about clinical librarians in Australia. Results showed that clinical librarians in Australia perform many of the same activities as clinical librarians elsewhere. Literature searching, information skills training and information delivery are core activities. Communication skills were universally rated as essential. The role is library based and fits the model of a tailored reference outreach service. Participation in ward rounds was not common but journal clubs, grand rounds and clinical meetings were attended in order to interact with clinicians. The clinical librarians in this study had a strong belief in the advanced nature of their knowledge and skills, and this was more pronounced than in other international studies. The clinical librarian role lacks consensus within the library profession as to the defining function and features. This makes it hard to distinguish the position from other health librarian roles and to develop appropriate measures for skills and knowledge. Further areas for research include benchmarks and accreditation for expert searching and critical appraisal; scope of practice and avenues of collaboration of clinical librarians with other health information professionals such as informaticians; and partnerships with health consumers.


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