Guest author: April Schweikhard, MLIS, Reference and Instructional Services Librarian, University of Oklahoma-Tulsa, Schusterman Library
The school nurse — I, myself, have fond memories of my childhood school nurses who conducted our health screenings and oversaw our health from elementary school through high school. I must admit that I was more than once guilty of faking ailments in order to escape class to visit the school nurse. But beyond our memories, what do we, as library professionals, know about school nurses? What are their needs and how might we be able to support them through health information outreach? Within the information sciences literature, very little is documented pertaining to school nurses and their information needs; however, two projects awarded through the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, South Central Region (NN/LM SCR) are attempting to fill this gap.
In 2012, the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa Schusterman Library received the NN/LM SCR Health Information Needs Assessment Award, School Health Connection: A Health Information Needs Assessment of School Nurses in Tulsa County. As the goal of the project, the library hoped to attain an understanding of the information needs and behaviors of public school nurses in Tulsa County in order to later design and implement targeted information outreach services specific to this population. The project consisted of an electronic survey to assess the types of information frequently sought, sources currently used, and perceptions regarding their ability and need. The survey was followed by a small focus group session. Of the approximate eighty-seven public school nurses in Tulsa County, fifty-eight completed the survey and five participated in the focus group session.
Since completing the information needs assessment award project, the library received an Express Outreach Award to further work with the Tulsa County school nurses. The projects outlined in this award are directly related to the findings from the information needs assessment. One of these projects consists of 2- to 3-hour workshops attended by school nurses employed in the five largest Tulsa County public school districts. These nurses comprise approximately 80% of the school nurse sample. The section topics of the workshop, the resources included, and even the activities conducted have all been directed by data and information collected in the survey or focus group session. To date, the library has conducted three of the five sessions, and the final two are scheduled for early 2014.
Probably the most important lesson that I have learned from these two projects is the value of knowing your service group and their specific needs. By immersing myself in the world of the school nurse, I have an understanding of the challenges she faces and how to best provide information service to combat these challenges. And, as I begin each training session with the school nurses, I sense that they recognize and appreciate this fact.