Get Smart to Stay Healthy @ Your Library

Mom called me one day to say that she had been diagnosed with Sjrogren’s Disease. I wondered “What the heck is that and how do you even spell it?” My parents seemed to more often share the health-related changes occurring in their lives. Mom told me what the doctor said and it did not sound too terrible. However, I knew that Mom did not ask the doctor any questions. She was brought up to respect physicians, believing that asking any question would be an insult. Wanting to help her, I thought of my own questions, such as “How might this change Mom’s life? How will the new medication mix with all her other medications? What questions should we ask her doctor?”
Doctor Greeting Patient
Flickr Creative Commons "Doctor Greeting Patient"

As a librarian who visits her own doctors regularly, I usually want to know more than the doctor has time to tell me. Let us face it most physicians do not have the time to teach us even if they would like to. Rather, they tell us what to do and not do. “Take this medicine and do not drink grapefruit juice,” and so on.

When you visit a health professional and receive a diagnosis, you may go home with more questions than answers. Sharing the news with family and friends may help or cause concern. Though you might go to the Internet to search for more information, your doctors might disapprove. They are concerned that you may stumble upon incorrect or outdated information, which happens quickly in the health field. There is also the problem of becoming overwhelmed by too much information. So this post is from a librarian who knows that any of us can drown in information. I will try to use my experiences to let you know about some of the best resources available.
Mayo Clinic
Graphic courtesy the Mayo Clinic
When my Mom had her first mini stroke, my family and I were terrified. It is horrible to see someone you love suffer in a way that you do not understand. I used the Mayo Clinic website to learn about her condition, treatment options and what questions to ask her doctor. Knowing more made facing her illness and helping her through treatment easier, not harder. The Mayo Clinic articles are easy to read and understand, so I gave a copy to each member of my family as well. You can ask your librarian for articles such as this.

When I wanted more detail, I checked “mini stroke” at the MedlinePlus website. Run by the National Institutes of Health, this website offers a selection of articles covering more topics. There were whole articles about the symptoms of a stroke and ways to prevent another stroke. This website has links for drug information, videos and a medical encyclopedia. There is also a search box where you can enter a word or two about your subject and get further help finding information.

It is natural, when facing decisions about your health and treatment, to want to know as much as your doctor about new drugs, procedures and diagnostic tools. For example, when my husband needed a hip replacement, he faced a dilemma. Talking to friends, we learned there was a new procedure available but could not be sure whether it was actually a better choice for him. Since I am familiar with researching information, I went to our library website’s health databases to look for articles comparing the old and new procedures.
Picture courtesy Flickr Creative Commons

With that information, my husband felt ready to talk to his surgeon about whether the new procedure would work for him. After that discussion, he was more confident in his doctor’s plan for the surgery. The discussion changed my husband’s fear to an informed, but nervous, readiness. By the way, my husband is now walking perfectly.

MCLS Hickory Corner Librarians at the Reference Desk
When you need more information, speak to your librarian right away. He or she can research reliable websites and databases and show you how to make your own searches. The Mercer County Library system offers patrons access to seven medical databases including one in Spanish. Just remember, your librarian is an information professional, not a doctor. Librarians can give you help with searching for information, but cannot offer medical advice.

Jennifer at Hickory Corner Branch


  1. Some really helpful information in this blog. Thanks for writing it Jennifer!


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