Supporting Staff Wellness in the Hospital Library

Prioritizing staff wellness in hospital libraries ensures a healthy work environment and better patient outcomes.

Medical librarians curate a collection of books that helps keep hospital employees healthy, happy, and motivated.

Our small but perfectly formed (if occasionally a little drafty) medical library serves a community of around six thousand medical and healthcare professionals, both in the acute hospital where we’re based and throughout the community. Although most of the books we have available for users to borrow are designed for medical, clinical, and management staff to borrow, we also have titles that are more generic, with a broader appeal.

We still have physical books, although the numbers fall each year as we move more and more of our titles online. In addition, following a planned move to a new purpose-built college building on the hospital site in the spring of 2024, the physical stock will need to be cut drastically. The usual “shelf life” of a medical book is ten years at most, although we try to replace titles if a new edition comes out or if we are asked to remove items by subject matter experts. It’s a myth that the online version of a title is always lower priced than the print version, and in fact, in many cases, just the opposite is true. When we can make an e-book available, however, it’s much easier and more convenient for our users out in the community to access. 

General Wellness Titles

After making sure our exam books are up to date, we’re now looking at adding more general wellness titles to our stock. There can be something of a perception in hospitals that the library is only there for the clinical staff, although in many hospital knowledge and library services, that’s far from the case. A lot of the texts we carry, however, are very technical, so when selecting the wellness items, we need to make sure we have titles that are written for laypeople, effectively, in clear, straightforward language.

Many wellness titles have had wide coverage in the media in the last year or so, depending on how famous the author is. It’s not uncommon for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to be faced with a patient who might reference something in, say, (former Big Brother host) Davina McCall’s Menopausing book or need a little advice about how healthy air frying is as a cooking method. These generic titles are the books that might be described as the “wellness” collection, although they’re mostly interleafed with the existing stock. In the wake of COVID-19 and its effect on the healthcare industry, there is also a great deal of interest in finding ways to combat anxiety, reduce overthinking, and what’s called motivational interviewing.

In motivational interviewing, the doctor, nurse, or other medical professional encourages the patient to change behaviors or work towards an outcome based on their motivation to change. Just wanting to lose weight, for instance, might not be such a strong motivator as wanting to lose weight so you can play football with your kids or keep up with your great-aunt when she’s out hiking. (I have one such aunt. She’s way fitter than I am. She’s also a demon at Scrabble, but that’s another story.)


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The general health of colleagues is one of the nonclinical aspects of working for the NHS that we do our best to support. This year, in particular, we’re looking at titles that might be of interest to those who support clinical staff. I’ve already mentioned anxiety, but we also regularly get asked for titles on mentoring, coaching, and career development. Each August sees a new cohort of doctors arrive at every hospital in England. Some are newly qualified and fresh out of medical school; others have already worked in the NHS or other healthcare systems for some years.

This year, after bidding for some additional funds to improve our core book stock, we’ve been buying titles to help with medical and clinical exams, OSCEs (the practical tests that doctors, nurses, and other professionals have to pass to show they’re competent in the technical skills required to treat patients), and general career development. This includes titles on topics that you might not think of right away when you think about medical professionals, but doctors move hospitals very regularly in England as part of their training, so interviewing skills are also requested pretty regularly.

Wellness Books — Hot Topics

When it comes to the general wellness of staff, we’ve also been scouring the best-seller lists from the usual suspects, including Amazon. Although we’re not able to purchase from Amazon, it is an excellent site for keeping an eye on what’s topical.

Just a quick glance at this week’s best-seller lists indicates that healthy eating is still a major concern, with plenty of cookbooks, especially on air frying, slow cooking, cutting back on sugar, and gluten-free recipes. We can’t buy every book, as much as we’d like to, so one of the groups we rely on to help us out with suggestions is the staff forum for those with long-term conditions.

Exercise is another theme — we all know we should be doing more of it, but sometimes it’s hard to get motivated. As we head towards autumn and the longer nights and shorter days of the northern hemisphere, there may be some of us, however, (ahem) who are very much looking forward to the BBC’s annual Strictly fest series. The format is very similar to Dancing with the Stars, and interest in ballroom dancing usually increases during the show. The short nature walks around the hospital site should continue, weather allowing, into autumn, and I’m determined to get my hiking boots out, wrap up, and see what’s happening on-site. (Even if quite a lot of it is currently a building site, ahead of the new purpose-built Medical Sciences building and a new medical diagnostic centre which is underway.)


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Before I order our next list of stock — which will include more wellness titles and not quite so many exam books — I thought I’d check out what general topics have been selling well for the year so far in 2023.

Cookbooks are definitely still popular, with a healthy angle. As well as the recipe books I mentioned earlier, there are also titles to reduce salt in dishes by making use of herbs and spices. General self-help is still popular, too, with various guides to living your life, and, to close on the cookery theme, plenty of books to teach you how to make delicious cakes and pastries.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of selecting wellness-focused titles for stock is that, in most cases, it doesn’t matter if a title has been published in the US or the UK. (This isn’t always the case with books on, say, pediatrics — or paediatrics, as we’d spell it on this side of the Pond.)

Now, if I can just get my head around exactly what a cup is equivalent to in a baking recipe, my cunning autumn plan is to bake some tasty treats ahead of BBC Strictly and convince myself that one day, I, too, might be a fraction as fit as the participants. . . .



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