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Library Instruction In Evidence-Based Practice

Article by: Steve Bogel, Librarian for Health Sciences

Evidence-based practice has emerged as the new paradigm in the practice of medicine, nursing, public health and other health care disciplines. In a shift from traditional decision making that relied on the unsystematic experiences of clinicians combined with their medical intuition, evidence-based practice employs the best available scientific evidence to make decisions about the care of individual patients and patient populations. Evidence-based practice is commonly defined today as the integration of the best available research evidence with clinical expertise and the thoughtful and compassionate use of patient values (Sackett, 1996,BMJ,312:71). A fuller understanding of the concept and practice acknowledges that there is a hierarchy of evidence in which some evidence is afforded greater credibility than other evidence (Hurwitz,2004, BMJ, 329:1024).

Recognized as a core competency for clinicians in most health care disciplines, evidence-based practice is also seen as a process of “lifelong, self-directed, problem-based learning in which caring for patients creates a need for acquisition of new knowledge about diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and other health care related issues” (Misa, 2013, Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 32,4:424). In a climate of information overload and lack of time, this new model of delivering the best medical care is also a model for efficient continuing education for health care workers. The creation of new information systems, mobile technologies, and the proliferation of systematic reviews of the medical literature, constitute some of the recent innovations to enable the wide-spread use of evidence-based practice throughout the health care system.

Health Sciences librarians at Drexel are actively engaged in teaching some of the critical knowledge and skills necessary for evidence-based practice. Audiences for library instruction include students across the health care disciplines and curricula, from undergraduate students to graduate students, residents, and faculty. With expertise in health care informatics, and the skills needed to mine the medical literature in a landscape of rapidly evolving resources, Health Sciences librarians teach the skills students and practitioners need to efficiently discover the scientific evidence they need to support clinical decision making. In collaboration with faculty, Health Sciences librarians deliver course content in classrooms, workshops, and online venues to integrate evidence-based instruction into course work. Librarians are principally involved in helping students convert patient problems from common clinical scenarios into answerable questions, construct effective search strategies, and identify the best resources to uncover the evidence-based literature.

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