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Embracing Community: Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital’s Medical Library

Posted by on November 6th, 2019 Posted in: Communities of Interest
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community garden under blue skies

Community Garden at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital

In August, I wrote about my trip to Copley Hospital shortly after librarian Stacy Wein was notified about the library’s closure. After my visit with Stacy, I drove 40 miles to what is known as the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. I wanted to learn more about the medical library at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital (NVRH).

Betsy Merrill greeted me as I walked into the hospital. The Medical Library is located in the Main Lobby, and she spotted me through the glass walls. We commiserated over hospital library closures. We felt the powerlessness of Stacy’s situation. Small hospitals are struggling with their budgets, and librarians are anxious to prove their worth.

NVRH is a 25-bed critical access hospital with affiliated primary care clinics, specialty and surgical services, birthing center and emergency services. According to the 2018 Community Health Needs Assessment 2018, NVRH serves a population of roughly 30,000 people. The area has a population density 48.1 persons per square mile in Caledonia County, and only 9.5 persons per square mile in Essex County. Compare this with 529 persons per square mile in Worcester County, Massachusetts (where my office is located). The Implementation Plan includes actions for addressing transportation, food insecurity and safe housing.

The Medical Library embraces community outreach to assist NVRH in addressing social determinants of health. Betsy, with a staff of volunteers, provides consumer health information in a variety of formats–brochures, books, magazines and videos. The Library offers information on support groups, and provides a public access computer for searching health-related questions.

Betsy handed me a list of Community Health Improvement projects that she participates in:

  • Healthy Choices publication: affordable community health resources
  • NVRH Community Gardens: free garden space and water access
  • AHEC MedQuest Program: high school students exploring health careers
  • Baby Cuddler Program: care for neonates withdrawing from exposure to narcotics

Betsy is involved with the hospital art gallery, Red Cross blood drives, and job shadowing program. She offers proctoring services for online exams for staff engaged in continuing education. She provides a monthly submission to the in-house newsletter, and serves on the Ethics Committee and Palliative Care Committee. Betsy handles these tasks in addition to her work supporting clinicians and hospital administrators.

Literature at the Heart of Medicine

Within the hospital community, Betsy organizes the Literature at the Heart of Medicine program. This facilitated reading and discussion group is coordinated through the Vermont Humanities Council. Literature at the Heart of Medicine meets monthly on the 3rd Thursday from 5:00-7:30pm.

The October read was Slow Medicine by Victoria Sweet. Kirkus Review observes that the author “highlights [moments] that revealed some aspect of what she calls Slow Medicine. Sometimes, it involves nurses and doctors showing calmness, confidence, expertise, and a personal touch; sometimes, it is patients whose treatments provide revelatory moments.” Sweet is very critical of Electronic Health Records as stealing time away from the doctor-patient encounter for the benefit of pharmaceutical companies.

Sounds like an interesting read.

Sweet, V. (2017). Slow Medicine: The Way to Health. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

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This has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012347 with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

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