Operational/Practical Evidence-Based-Practice: Some Thoughts

Over the past 6 or so months I have had the 3 student volunteers from Manchester Metropolitan University Library School on placement with me. They have principally helping me with a reclassification project, but also learning about life in library land and specifically health libraries. Whilst undergoing some training with one of the students, the topic of evidence-based practice came up. Evidence-based-practice or EBP is a key component of the library, both supporting it, and just as importantly, practicing it. A key aspect of my role is to ‘Support Professional Practice’. This is quite a far reaching term, covering provision of intelligence, knowledge & evidence, to training, to advice and to sharing technical expertise. The end goal of everything we do is to support practice and to ensure the decisions are made with the best possible evidence and that users get the best service possible. That service can take many forms are may not be tangible to them at least. My role in this should be under as much scrutiny as the end service should it not? To this student I discussed two key don’ts of operational evidence based practice (not just in libraries):

  1. Do not do because it has always been done
  2. Do not change for change’s sake

That is to say – always question, always test. But do not change something that is fit-for-purpose. EBP isn’t about re-inventing the wheel, be it in a surgical procedure or an inter-library-loans system.

When new in post (or a new professional) it can be tough to question the status quo of *why* something is done, especially if joining an established team. Change isn’t something that comes naturally to people, no matter what they say (myself included). This is intensified if it is SOMEONE ELSE implementing or suggesting change. You are basically telling someone (or a team) that they are doing it wrong. It is a quick way of falling out of favour and losing friends in the workplace if you do not approach it in the right manner.

Some tips to consider:

  1. Everyone one is a customer. Treat them like it.
  2. Tact. Nobody likes a smartarse.
  3. Can you prove it?
  4. People can be dicks. Both them and YOU
  5. Is it an entire system or a process within it?
  6. You may be wrong.

Change management is a discipline in itself, John Kotter being a prominent author. It is a topic far too large for me to discuss here, and something I am not knowledgeable enough to espouse upon. It is often strategic change management that is focused upon in text rather than operational (though not wholly the case and obviously they are both heavily linked). It is my belief that operational change should be from the ground up, led by the staff themselves that actually do the ‘operational’ work and processes that may be ripe for change. After all – unless you are on the shop/library floor how are you to know what works? Medical EBP is not solely dictated by management (or at least it should never, ever be) so why should it be in other fields?

Further Reading

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