Biomedical professionals with special needs should be considered when developing a strategy for an inclusive library. They are both patient and clinician. In addition to reference inquires that might arise when treating their patients, they may also have information and accessibility needs directly related to their own disabilities.
The Society of Healthcare Professionals with Disabilities (http://www.DisabilitySociety.org/) is an organization for health professionals with disabilities and associates. Providing professional resources and support, lifetime memberships are free. In addition to the global society, there are three subgroups:
- Physicians with Disabilities (www.PhysicianswithDisabilities.org)
- Pharmacists with Disabilities (http://www.PharmacistswithDisabilities.org)
- Nurses with Disabilities (http://NursingwithDisabilities.org)
The Society of Healthcare Professionals with Disabilities also maintains a blog that can be subscribed to via email or RSS
The Disabled Nurse: Focus on Abilities
Susan Fleming, MN, RN, CNS and PhD candidate at Washington State University College of Nursing shares her experience working as a nurse of over 35 years. Having been born with only one hand, Fleming has excelled in her profession with the help of a prosthetic hand. While offering encouragement to others in the field with a disability, her experience can be enlightening to there rest of the biomedical community as they serve those with disabilities.
A study of health information needs of rural Oregon nurses published in 2008 indicates that there is a need to expand health literacy resources for the rural special needs population:
In addition to general nursing care resources, home visiting nurses wanted detailed resources for caring for patients with disabilities. (p. 337)
For patients with disabilities that do not live in larger, urban areas access to special needs resources can be extremely limited. This lack of resources can also be extended to the local public health nurses that serve the population. Rural nurses and caretakers face the same barriers as their isolated community, including limited information resources, internet access, and training. (p. 336) Through their interviews, the authors noted that numerous rural public health nurses experienced frustration while attempting to use online database for their information needs. Reasons stated included frustration with restricted login access to databases and patient information that was too advanced for the reading level of their patients. (p. 339).
There is a need to improve access and training to the rural medical community across the board. However, those with special needs already have numerous barriers to health literacy resources and assistive technology. Therefore, when their public health nurses are also facing barriers to information resources, these barriers are magnified.
Turner AM, Stavri Z, Revere D, Altamore R. From the ground up: information needs of nurses in a rural public health department in Oregon. J Med Libr Assoc 2008 Oct;96(4):335-342. doi: 10.3163/1536-5050.96.4.008
Though this report is now ten years old, it is interesting to revisit as this year marks the first that the Baby Boomer generation turned 65. It was estimated that by 2015, 19.6% of the labor force will be over the age of 55 (Figure 1). These numbers are comparable to job statistics in the health sciences, 19.3 % of doctors and 12% of nurses were over the age of 55 in 2,000 (Table 8). These figures are important when considering the clientele of the biomedical library and the special needs that might arise with regards to potential vision, hearing, and mobility impairments as workers retire at a later age.
You can download a PDF of the report at: U.S. GAO – Older Workers: Demographic Trends Pose Challenges for Employers and Workers.