Nakia Woodward, Senior Clinical Reference Librarian
Quillen College of Medicine Library, East Tennessee State University
1. What is your position?
I am the Senior Clinical Reference Librarian at East Tennessee State University’s Quillen College of Medicine Library in Johnson City, TN. We have a small staff, so I get to do a little of everything from clinical reference, outreach (both consumers and clinicians) and instruction, to research. One thing I really love about my job is that there is no such thing as a typical day.
2. How long have you been a librarian? Your current position?
I have been a librarian for 10 years and I have been in my current position 3 ½ years.
3. What was the path that led you to your current position?
I was fortunate enough to find a job in my hometown working part-time as a paraprofessional and part-time for an NN/LM funded project as a consumer health librarian. I was then able to move into a reference librarian position when one became available.
4. What made you decide to be a librarian?
I first wanted to be a librarian at age 3 when I decided checking out books looked like fun. As I grew up I bounced around majors and career plans before realizing that librarianship is a wonderful profession for people who love being generalists.
5. What do you love most about your outreach work?
The impact I get to have as a medical librarian is mind-blowing. We, as health science librarians, are fortunate enough to see a direct impact of the work we do. I have had physicians tell me that because of searches I have conducted they changed treatment plans and it extended patients’ lives. That is such a humbling thing when you think about it.
6. What do you consider your biggest work related challenge?
Educating people outside the field about what we do and the myriad of services that librarians can provide. This challenge is especially hard when librarians are confronted with people and administrators who feel they already know what we do. We have to break their preconceptions and work to be considered part of an integrated team and not an ancillary service.
7. What do you consider to be the most fulfilling part of your job?
I love that feeling when a student, clinician, or consumer gets exactly the information they needed. I like the connections made between people and information at that point. When I have a patron who wants information for a medical condition and leaves feeling calmer and more in control because of what I helped them find, that makes me feel fulfilled. When we have a rural physician call for information on a condition and we can provide her with the same level of service that we do our on-campus physicians, I know that my work is worthwhile.
8. What do you see as the biggest health concerns in the communities you serve?
Access to care, prescription drug abuse, and obesity are huge issues in east Tennessee. We have had to adapt classes for our students, training for the public, and consumer handouts to reflect these issues. Many of our researchers focus on these areas and we’ve had to stay on top of these developments and initiatives.
9. What do you see as the biggest concerns in hospital and/or health sciences librarianship?
Libraries constantly have to prove their relevance and justify their cost. I think some administrators have the naïve view that databases can take the place of a library. It is crucial for us to get better at promotion and marketing our profession and our libraries to address this issue.
10. How did you first come to know NN/LM SE/A?
I was first hired by ETSU on a project funded by an award from NN/LM SE/A which was the start of my library career. This project was the beginning of the Simple Plan project that went on to train public library workers across the state of Tennessee with 12 hours of continuing education focusing on consumer health.
11. In what ways has NN/LM SE/A benefited you or your organization?
NN/LM SE/A is a priceless resource. Our library would not have been able to do most of its outreach efforts without support from NN/LM SE/A. They have provided us with project funding, training opportunities, ideas for future projects, and program development support. We are very fortunate to have assistance from the NN/LM SE/A.
12. Can you share a success story about the impact of health outreach in your community?
We just finished an NN/LM SE/A funded project which provided mini-iPads to clinicians in 8 faith-based clinics for the working uninsured and a desktop computer to go in the lobby for registering for the Affordable Care Act and to provide consumer health information. The clinic workers are determined that their patients will not receive a lower quality of service because they are uninsured. The equipment and training were well received and the clinics are all now using MedlinePlus.gov as their go-to consumer education resource.
13. What advice would you give others who are interested in doing health outreach work in their communities?
Partnership and collaboration are crucial to outreach success. The main reason so many of our projects have been successful over the years is because of strong partnerships. Partnering with NN/LM SE/A provides a fantastic foundation for a plan, but also partnering with local groups such as churches, faith-based clinics, public libraries, community centers, etc., can lead to many successful initiatives. Look for people who may be interested in outreach since health is an issue that impacts everyone. Some of our successful partnerships include the following:
- We began a project a few years ago which provided consumer health information at Remote Area Medical clinics in our region. Members of our local health sciences library consortium partnering with public libraries would show up at 6:30 in the morning for the event. We performed on-site consumer health information searches for the uninsured attendees. We provided our contact information and many attendees contacted us to receive further health information. (NN/LM SE/A funded)
- We have collaborated with Preston Medical Library at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and the Tennessee State Library and Archives to provide extensive training on consumer health to all non-metro library workers across the state of Tennessee. (NN/LM SE/A funded)
- We partnered with the Tennessee Hospital Association to provide handheld devices to rural clinicians. We have provided hundreds of devices to rural clinicians to assist them in getting access to health information so they are not penalized for choosing to be rural practitioners. (NN/LM SE/A funded)