Inese Verzemnieks knows that the information nurses give patients after a medical procedure can be the difference between a good recovery and a return trip to the hospital.
A lecturer at the UCLA School of Nursing, Verzemnieks teaches a graduate-level course for advanced practice registered nurse students which covers, among other subjects, how to translate complex scientific and medical research into clear, accessible language that patients can understand. The premise is that the better patients understand their conditions and their treatment plans, the better the chances that they will follow doctors’ orders and return to health.
In her teaching, Verzemnieks has an unlikely ally in a place you might not expect: a UCLA Library health and life sciences specialist named Antonia Osuna-Garcia. As the library’s designated liaison for the nursing school, Osuna-Garcia identifies research resources and provides personalized guidance for students, staff and faculty. She is one of more than 30 library liaisons on staff at UCLA Library — each charged with providing specialized expertise and research support for the academic units they cover.
In Verzemnieks’ class, students are asked to take a standard hospital handout for patients — say, a pamphlet explaining how to change wound dressings — and revise it so that the language is suitable for someone at a fifth-grade reading level. The exercise replicates an important part of nurses’ real-world responsibilities.
“If you’re giving people materials that are written at a collegiate level, you’re going to run into problems,” Verzemnieks said.
The UCLA Library continually invests in keeping its science resources current, said Jason Burton, the director of the UCLA Science and Engineering Library and of the Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library, which encompasses many of the nursing resources. Those investments include journal subscriptions; curated databases of magazine, journal and newspaper articles, each organized by subject; and access to medical information websites that are used by professionals in hospitals and clinics and by students who are training in those settings.
This year, the library also purchased dozens of book titles specifically requested by nursing faculty and students, including textbooks to support 25 nursing courses. And the collections nursing students use most, databases like PubMed, CINAHL, Embase and Web of Science, all are accessible through the Biomedical Library’s webpage, which is one of the most visited sections of the UCLA Library website.
For UCLA librarians, connecting students and researchers to the library’s many resources is core to their mission. But providing access to those materials is only one piece of the puzzle. The other critical element is engagement — training students and faculty on the most effective ways to use the resources, find the information they need and avoid misinformation. Those skills are what give the library collections real-world impact.
“Nurses need to be able to critique the materials that are being passed out to patients,” Verzemnieks said. “So much of improving the quality of care relies on updating old information with the newest data and translating that for public consumption. Doing this well requires being able to navigate the amazing resources at the UCLA Library.”
In her role as liaison to the nursing school, Osuna-Garcia also gives presentations to Verzemnieks’ class and consults one-on-one with students — offering tips on how to compare old and new data, for example, or strategies for turning research questions into effective database queries.
Each quarter, Osuna-Garcia and the four other science librarians provide more than 100 individual consultations; they also embed themselves in classes, both in person and online.
“We’re helping students learn, gain literacy and develop their evidence-based practice,” Burton said. “I’m proud of our ability to connect our patrons with these collections.”
Beyond her work with the nursing school’s faculty and students, Osuna-Garcia also provides research assistance and consultations for clinical staff at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center.
But she said her work connecting nursing students and researchers to library resources is especially rewarding. “Helping people is why I got into this field to begin with,” she said. “I get to engage with the students, hear what they need, and work with them one on one and in classes. I’ve had a lot of people come to me panicking about an assignment. We sit down and work through it together. Their relief and their new understanding is the most rewarding part of my engagement work.”