Monday 24 November 2014

Ruth Jenkins: Switching Sector- HE to NHS

The evening saw a very interesting talk from our speaker, Ruth Jenkins- who moved from the University of Reading Library to the healthcare sector. Based at Prospect Park Hospital in a mental health library, she works in a small team, providing information and library services to NHS staff. Ruth very kindly gave permission to make these photos available, so that those reading this report can gain some context of the library she is based in.

Interior of Library
Ruth stated that the NHS healthcare librarians were all extremely supportive, and she recommended anyone in a similar career move to subscribe to relevant mailing lists, as this has been very useful to her.

Ruth spoke about how many of the staff who utilise the service are often not in the hospital, but our in the community, so much of her work is remote. The Library provides current awareness bulletins of new research, in over 70 topics including bibliotherapy, therapy for eating disorders and also electro-convulsive therapy.

Much of her work focuses on assisting with literature searches, processing Inter-Library loan requests and in staff training. One thing she has had to do is become much more aware of the importance of planning her search, as the research evidence is often a key part of diagnosis and treatment, as can be seen from the diagram below:

The role of the Library in combination with patient assessment and clinical expertise
Ruth often conducts and assists with literature searches- not a task for the squeamish! Her previous role at University of Reading Library involved liaison with the Education and History departments, which was a full time fixed term post for 3 years- after some time in the role, she saw the vacancy at Prospect Park and thought she’d give it a go. Ruth recommends that those considering switching sector ensure that they identify their transferable skills during their application, and that they do their research prior to interview. She made sure that she had a few questions to ask the interviewers too, so they could see that she had thought about her application.

Ruth found the organisational culture to be the biggest difference between the university library and the NHS. At the University she was seen more as a teacher, whereas there are very sharply defined roles in the NHS. However, at Prospect, she is more likely to be directly incorporated into groups and work closely alongside healthcare professionals. The library is smaller at Prospect, so she gets more variety in her work, and the spread is different. Ruth does more 1-2-1 sessions, whereas at the University, she was more likely to see groups. She is invited to meetings more at the NHS. Due to the fact that many staff work in the community, much of her work at Prospect is done online via the Internet. This does however, mirror the spread of online learning in the higher education sector. Another important difference was that there was less autonomy in the NHS than in the University library.

Ruth identified several similarities between the two roles that she has worked in, which sided her successful transition. These were the need for good information skills, the need to develop user search skills, being embedded into a team or department and the different levels of experience that users have with research.

Ruth’s top tips for those considering a sectoral switch:

  • 1- Identify your transferable skills
  • 2- Read up on the subject you wish to support, and be aware of the library/information issues
  • 3- Go for it! You won’t get the role if you don’t apply!

Exterior of Prospect Park Hospital
Personally, as someone that has only ever worked in one sector, I found the session very informative and also reassuring that should I need to change sectors, that this would be potentially possible. I think we sometimes forget as a profession that we have many skills that are of huge value across sectors and even across professional boundaries. Many of those I spoke to that evening felt invigorated and inspired to consider career moves that they might previously have shied from. Food for thought.