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New Voices RGU Student Series: Beki Smith

Category: New Voices, New Voices

This blog is posted as part of our New Voices RGU Student Series, where we are publishing blogs written by Robert Gordon University Information and Library Studies Students as part of their coursework.

About the writer: Beki Smith is a book-loving, slow running Pharmacist. New to librarianship as a Clinical Librarian in Hospital, she is passionate about making scientific, medical and health information accessible to everyone.

The role of Information Professionals (IPs) as facilitators and enablers of information literacy skills for the health-sector workforce.

It could be argued that the role of IPs sited within hospital libraries is to train/educate the healthcare workforce, improve health information literacy, and empower them to keep up-to-date and implement evidence-based practice (EBP) (Forster 2013).

However, in today’s underfunded NHS, healthcare practitioners of all levels are increasingly overworked and desperately trying to mitigate understaffing (Wheeler 2018).

So, is attending training on information literacy skills the best use of their precious time? 

Information Literacy – WHAT is it and WHY is it important?

CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) defines Information literacy as “the ability to think critically and make balanced judgments about any information we find and use. It empowers us as citizens to develop informed views and to engage fully with society.” (The CILIP Information Literacy Group (ILG) 2018)

EBP, defined as “the integration of best research evidence with clinical expertise and patient values” (De Brún 2014) relies on information literacy skills and is one of the cornerstones of healthcare (Jylhä et al. 2017).

The Institute of Medicine’s lofty aim is that “by 2020, 90% of clinical decisions will be supported by accurate, timely and up-to-date clinical information and will reflect the best available evidence to achieve the best patient outcomes” (Lehane et al. 2019).

However, with around 2.5million journal articles being published each year, the amount of information is overwhelming (Ware and Mabe 2015). How does the health-sector workforce ensure that they are delivering EBP despite battling time and resource constraints?

For any healthcare professional (HCP) to deliver robust EBP, they need to be able to confidently assess whether or not the evidence they are about to apply is actually robust.

  • Does it relate to the patient(s) being treated?
  • Is it biased?
  • Is it impartial?
  • What do the numbers actually mean for THIS patient in terms of benefit vs risk?
  • Can they explain it sufficiently well so that this patient can make an informed decision?

Lafuente-Lafuente et al. (2019) reported “the proportion of professionals having a good knowledge of EBP, having good critical appraisal skills or personally implementing EBP in their practice is consistently low”, with 60.2% of HCP’s mentioning either lack of knowledge of the EBP process, and/or a lack of the skills required, as well as lack of time, and difficulties accessing information sources, as the main obstacles to implementing EBP in their personal practice.

One-off critical appraisal training interventions were neither time- nor cost-effective, as they didn’t garner any meaningful change in behaviour or outcomes, despite an increase in skills and confidence (Ewings et al. 2004).

“Evidence-based knowledge is a very powerful tool, and you’re the one who knows how to access and share it” (CILIP).

IPs spend their working lives considering information and knowledge – how it is categorised, how it is organised, what its “value” is, and critically appraising whether it should be included or not. “Using information skills, knowledge base and knowledge management techniques they ensure NHS bodies, their staff, learners, patients, and the public have access to the right knowledge and evidence, at the right time, in the right place” (The Knowledge for Healthcare Workforce Planning and Development Group  2016).

Those IPs within hospital libraries already have the necessary skills to provide tailored search and critical appraisal services to support multi-disciplinary teams (MDTs), thereby allowing busy HCPs to capitalise on their time, whilst still staying up-to-date.

Investment in clinical outreach librarians, who provide these services may be the most cost-effective way to improve EBP outcomes, and there is evidence to suggest that these IPs help reduce healthcare costs, whilst improving patient care and patient experience (Research Imperative Task Force (RITF) 2019).

However, the role of IPs in facilitating and enabling information literacy skills in the health sector workforce, may not be about HOW they provide it but rather one of raising AWARENESS of their existence, their skills, and of the services they can provide.


WHEELER, C. 2018. NHS ‘unsafe’ for children amid lack of nurses.(News). The Sunday Times.

CILIP, Health hub. [online] London: CILIP. Available from: [Accessed Oct/13 2019]

DE BRÚN, C., 2014. The Information Standard Guide: Finding the Evidence. Redditch: NHS England.

EWINGS PAUL, E. et al., 2004. Critical appraisal skills training for health care professionals: a randomized controlled trial ISRCTN46272378]. BMC Medical Education, 4(1), pp. 30

FORSTER, M., What does information literacy mean for the UK health sector?. [online] London: Information Literacy Group. Available from: [Accessed Oct/13 2019]

JYLHÄ, V. et al., 2017. Facilitating evidence-based practice in nursing and midwifery in the WHO European Region. Copenhagen, Denmark: WHO (World Health Organisation).

LAFUENTE-LAFUENTE, C. et al., 2019. Knowledge and use of evidence-based medicine in daily practice by health professionals: a cross-sectional survey. BMJ Open, 9(3),

LEHANE, E. et al., 2019. Evidence-based practice education for healthcare professions: an expert view. BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine, 24(3), pp. 103

RESEARCH IMPERATIVE TASK FORCE (RITF), 2019. Evidence you can use to communicate library value. [online] Chicago: Medical Library Association. Available from: [Accessed Oct/13 2019]

THE CILIP INFORMATION LITERACY GROUP (ILG), 2018. CILIP definition of information literacy 2018. [online] London: CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals). Available from: [Accessed Oct/13 2019]

THE KNOWLEDGE FOR HEALTHCARE WORKFORCE PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT GROUP, 2016. The Professional Knowledge and Skills Base for Health. London: CILIP and HEE.

WARE, M. and MABE, M., 2015. The STM Report: An overview of scientific and scholarly journal publishing. The Hague: International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers.

**The views expressed in our guest blogs are the writer’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of CILIPS**

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