With its extensive repository of medical materials, from journal articles to DVDs to anatomy models, the ValleyCare Health Library & Ryan Comer Cancer Resource Center provides an invaluable service to the community. It also reflects ValleyCare's conviction that outcomes can be improved when patients are informed about and participate in their own health care.
That notion might be viewed as normal in these days of information proliferation, but it was a novel idea when the medical library first opened in 1991. Initially, the library was reserved for hospital personnel, but that soon changed. "Our hospital was very progressive in opening the library to consumers, with the aim of educating and empowering them. ValleyCare has been promoting wellness for years before it became popular," comments Registered Nurse Mary Prishtina, who staffs the center with Medical Librarian Margaret Hsieh.
In this era of Google and the Internet, is a medical library really necessary? "When you've just been diagnosed with a disease, it is not comforting to run a search that yields five million hits," Hsieh replies, noting how difficult it can be to evaluate a website. "You don't know if they are directing you to a product or presenting real scientific evidence. When your life is on the line, it's critical to get correct information."
Adds Prishtina, "For patients, things happen so quickly, yet it takes time to process information. It's nice to have a place where professional guidance can lead them to resources beyond their computer screens. Doctors' visits are so quick today, but the library allows patients to take a book or other materials home to look over carefully. This helps them feel empowered, gain confidence, and it may even change the course of their condition as they understand the gamut of options."
The library's services are also critical in keeping ValleyCare's physicians and nursing staff up-to-date on state-of-the-art practices and protocols. Library volunteers scan the tables of contents of new medical journals every month and send the lists out to doctors. "They let us know which articles they are interested in, and then we can email them back the full text. This allows them to access the material at their own convenience while saving a lot of time and paper," Hsieh says.
The library also reaches out into the community, for example at high school health fairs and through its Glitterbug hand-washing program for elementary students. It runs patient support groups and maintains a directory of Tri-Valley oriented support groups and services. Its LINCS project (Linking INformation for Children with Special Needs) is a collection of information in various formats on special needs children for the Tri-Valley community.
Recognized by the National Library of Medicine as a model for similar institutions, the library is financed by community donations, fundraising events, and ValleyCare Health System. The next benefit, the Hop Yard Golf Scramble on June 25, will support Eric's Corner, an epilepsy family resource center named in honor of Eric "Otis" Nostrand, the owner of Pleasanton's Hop Yard Alehouse & Grill.
The library is located on the second floor of ValleyCare Medical Plaza, at 5725 W. Las Positas Blvd.
For hours and other information, visit www.valleycare.com/health/health.html or call (925) 734-3315. For details on the golf benefit, call the ValleyCare Charitable Foundation at (925) 373-4560.
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