For better access, bring the library bedside

Use volunteers to fill patient requests

To make sure patients have their questions answered and obtain the information they need, Jackie Davis, MLIS, consumer health librarian at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, CA, started a Health Ambassador Program.

The program is a partnership between the consumer health library and the volunteer department at the hospital. The volunteers involved in the program have a discussion with Davis about consumer health. They then are given forms to fill out as they visit patient rooms to ask if additional health information is needed. When patients and families have questions or concerns, the volunteer fills out the form and brings it back to Davis, who fills the request.

Davis says she tries to find information at the most basic level because she does not know the literacy level of the patients. Also, she reviews the material with the volunteer so he or she can go over the items with the patients and families. For example, an article might contain an answer to one of their questions, so she places a sticky note on the section with the information and provides the details to the volunteer.

When patients and families say they have no questions or health concerns, the volunteer leaves information on how to contact the librarian should they change their minds. People can text Davis, e-mail her, telephone, or come to the resource library. Patients can use the library at any time, even after discharge, says Davis. The use of the library is free and open to anyone in the community.

When patients and family members tell the volunteers they already have done computer research to find information, they are given a bookmark about the Medline Plus web site. This bookmark is a way to "gently" direct consumers to quality, trustable, online health information, says Davis.

"The Health Ambassador Program takes the health information accessibility to a whole different level," says Davis.


For more information about the Health Ambassador Program, contact:

• Jackie Davis, MLIS, Consumer Health Librarian, Sharp Memorial Hospital, San Diego, CA. E-mail: