Thing 23: What next?

20 11 2012

Flickr CC, ‘olympic finish’ by ronky

Phew!  At one point I thought I was never going to get here!  I’ve finally finished 23 Things and I am so pleased.  With the pressures of my day job and a hectic family life there were times that I considered abandoning the programme, but the value and learning that I knew I’d get spurred me on.

I’d summarise 23 Things as “stuff I wish I’d known earlier”.  I can’t emphasise enough how useful this programme would have been to me 1-2 years ago when I was starting out on Chartership.  However, it’s better late than never, as they say, and I’m looking forward to where my CPD journey might take me next.

I have a Personal Development Plan as part of my Chartership submission, but I’m definitely going to revisit it in the light of 23 Things.  As suggested I’ve undertaken a personal SWOT analysis to examine my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in terms of my career.  It’s been illuminating.  It’s forced me to take a much wider view of my CPD and look at my future career, rather than just my current role.  It’s also helped me to recognise my own unique skills in my role and identify ways in which I might grab career opportunities to deal with some of my weaknesses.  In doing the SWOT analysis I found this Personal SWOT analysis from Mindtools really useful.

In reflecting on what I’ve gained from 23 Things, I’d say it’s had the following impact on me professionally:

I am now an avid Twitter user.  I find it incredibly useful for online professional networking and keeping abreast of the latest developments in my areas of interest.

I am now blogging regularly.  Previously I was using a private wiki to record my reflective learning.  Now I share those reflections, ideas and thoughts with the online community via this blog.

I feel confident that I’m up to speed with new technologies.  I have just started using Prezi for a training event I am delivering at work, and I feel comfortable to deal with engaging in discussions about the best free software for referencing or creating podcasts.

I now adopt a ‘whole career’ approach to my CPD, rather than just thinking about how I will develop in my current role.  I feel much more self-aware and comfortable acknowledging my weaknesses as well as celebrating my strengths.

Overall, it’s been a fantastic way for me to learn, reflect and develop.  I shall be encouraging colleagues to join in for the next 23 Things!


Thing 22: Volunteering to gain experience

15 11 2012

I understand the argument that  offering to work without pay could potentially devalue our profession, but I don’t see it that way at all, and I doubt that most employers do either.

I’ve been fortunate enough never to have been in a position where I’ve been without work, but if I was, I should imagine that volunteering would be an option that I’d seriously consider.   All the volunteering accounts that I read in Bronagh McCrudden’s paper from the 2010 New Professionals Conference were extremely inspiring.  

Volunteering is a brilliant way to demonstrate your commitment, motivation and initiative.  Surely these qualities are extremely attractive to a potential employer.  To me, it seems like a good way to keep in touch with professional issues, make new contacts and try something new while waiting for the next employment opportunity to arrive.

Thing 21: Promoting yourself

14 11 2012

Creating a list of what I enjoy doing is actually much more difficult than I thought it was going to be.  If I wrote this list once a year I’m sure it would be different every time, according to what I’ve been doing at that time and how my skills and knowledge have broadened into new areas.

So, at the moment, the things that I really enjoy doing…

1. Organising things.  I love taking something chaotic and untamed and putting it into some order, whether that be ideas or words.  I get a lot of satisfaction from planning events and projects and thrashing out new ideas.  There’s nothing more satisfying to me than completing a list, plan or mindmap.  For every holiday I’ve ever been on I’ve devised a rota and have to make sure I have a selection of maps.  I admit it, I’m a geek.

2. Innovation.  My head is often turned by new and exciting things, and I love the thought of doing something that no-one else is doing.  I like to be at the front of developments at work and find that incredibly motivating.  I’m a  recent Twitter convert which is perfect for keeping me abreast of new ideas and professional developments. 

3. Writing.  I’ve always enjoyed turning ideas into words, and whether it’s a report for work, a reflective piece for my blog or an article for a newsletter, I really love trying to express myself and communicate to an audience using words.  And I adore reading too.. these days with an 18 month old son curling up with a good book is a rare indulgence.

4. Being around people.  I always thought that I was a shy person (and I was), but now that I’ve grown in confidence I’m finding that I get a huge amount of satisfaction and enjoyment from being with others.  I enjoy helping customers to find information, I love working alongside other professionals on projects and I get a real buzz when I talk to someone on the same wavelength as me who shares my ideas and passions.  I’ve grown to enjoy networking rather than seeing it as a necessary evil.  At home, my weekends are always spent catching up with family and friends, it’s happy time.

5. Running.  Ok, I don’t do much of this in work (obviously!), but outside of work it’s the only form of exercise that I’ve ever really found an affinity with.  I run with my dog and sometimes with other people, and it always feels like a real accomplishment when I finish a run.  It’s true that you get a buzz from running.  I feel sluggish and lethargic when I’m not running.

The things I really dislike doing…

1. Lack of human contact.  I could never work from home or work alone.  Being without human contact all day puts me in a bad mood and makes me withdraw even more into myself.  The endless days I spent revising alone in my bedroom as a teenager make me shudder.

2. Numbers.  I really can’t get over this one.  Anytime that I have to work with numbers, be it statistics, maths, finance…gah.  The very thought makes me feel nauseous.  My brain just doesn’t seem to work that way.

3. Not doing a proper job.  I get really frustrated when I haven’t completed something to the best of my ability due to lack of time or preparation.  I really come down hard on myself about it.  Last minute changes make me panic.  I also find it incredibly difficult to work with people who don’t pay attention to detail. Bad grammar and punctuation is a pet hate of mine.

This has been really interesting, it seems ridiculous that I’ve never actually stopped to think about what I enjoy doing and what I dislike.   I can’t believe I’ve never done it before.  And the final result is… I’m a geek, perfectionist and control freak!  Gah.

I’ve just completed an annotated CV for my Chartership submission, but I’m going to look at it again and see if I can include anything that’s more skills based.

I’ve not had many interviews, but the one thing I have always found really useful is to practice answering questions with a family member or friend prior to the interview.  You can get a rough idea of what questions will come up by examining the person specification.  I’ve sometimes used the book Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions for sample questions.

As someone who has been on an interview panel several times, I would say that you can definitely tell when someone has prepared or not.  The really impressive candidates are those who have done research into the role and some of the surrounding issues.  Also, don’t worry too much about being nervous.  A good candidate always shines despite nerves.

Lessons from a training guru

9 11 2012

Yesterday I attended a course on how to critically appraise medical research studies.  Part of my role is to train doctors, nurses and other staff on how to understand the strengths and weaknesses of research so I was hopeful that I’d pick up some useful ideas.  I’d also been told that the doctor running the course was an international guru on critical appraisal so my expectations were high!

The course was brilliant.  Critical appraisal is quite a difficult subject to teach because there’s a lot of theory involved.  The trainer approached this in a really creative way.  There was over 50 people on the course, and we were in a lecture theatre so there was no room to break up into small groups.  Each person had a workbook and a digital handset.  Periodically, the trainer would make us answer some questions in our workbook, then share our answers with the room by ‘voting’ using our digital handsets (in the style of ‘Ask the Audience’ in Who Wants to be a Millionaire).  It was a really effective way of checking learning as we went along and it also made sure you paid attention because you knew that a question would be coming up soon.  There wasn’t that fear of exposure that you feel if you have to speak in front of a large group; it felt ‘safe’ to take a guess at a question even if you gave a wrong answer. 

The trainer also used a lot of practical examples and anecdotes to illustrate the ideas behind the theory.  For example, the Hawthorne effect is a term to describe how patients often change their behaviour when they are being observed in a trial.  The effect is named after a ‘Mr Hawthorne’ who was a factory boss who one day had to move offices.  He set up his desk temporarily on the shop floor.  During this period, productivity in the factory went through the roof!  Small examples like that are the ones that stick in my head, so I can draw some inspiration from this approach for my own training.

I felt fairly comfortable with most of the session content, except for the part of the afternoon that covered interpreting medical statistics.  I’ve always struggled with maths and in the past whenever numbers have come up in a training session, a mental wall appeared and I completely glazed over.  I seem to need longer to take in the information than everyone else!  I really tried so hard to concentrate, but unfortunately the same thing happened.  I got myself completely lost during the exercises and felt really stupid when other people around me were having no trouble at all working out Number Needed to Treat (NNT) and Absolute Risk Reduction (ARR) calculations.  Gah!  The more stupid I felt, the less I concentrated and by the end I had stopped listening altogether.  I was really disappointed.  I knew that this was a weak area of mine and I hadn’t been able to overcome my usualt reaction.  I don’t feel that statistics are something I’ll ever be able to train other people on, if I can’t even understand the numbers myself!

Statistics aside, it was a thoroughly interesting day and I came away with some really useful ideas on how to make my own training more appealing to participants.  I also extended my knowledge in a range of areas, and will feel much more confident with the subject next time I’m delivering training.  I’m already planning my next session…

How much does a library service cost?

9 11 2012

This week I attended Costings training for NHS libraries.  The course was all about how to break down seperate library services into several components, calculate the cost of each component, then add them all together to work out the total cost of that service. 

For example, the cost of an Inter Library Loan isn’t simply the fee that you pay to the British Library (or whoever provides you with a copy of the article).  The cost should also take into account the time spent by library staff on each step in the process of sourcing the article, ordering it, liaising with the customer etc. (and this will vary according to the grade of the library worker undertaking this task).

During the training we also calculated the cost of setting up a library service from scratch, and all the different factors that should be taken into account including staffing, facilities, marketing, management and overheads like rent and heating costs.  The end cost is mindblowing!

It really made it clear to me how much libraries have got to start thinking with a more business-like approach.  So many of us provide services that aren’t properly costed, and we end up providing a service at a loss.  What business would operate like that?  They certainly wouldn’t be in business very long.  OK, it’s not all about making a profit (most of us become librarians because we enjoy helping people), but for us to be sustainable and demonstrate value to stakeholders, it’s necessary.

I do think that health libraries are particularly bad at this and I’d be interested to hear from libraries in other sectors about whether they take a more business-like approach to costing and pricing services. 

It also struck me that I’ll have to start brushing up on my finance and business skills if I want to remain in this professional for the foreseeable future.

Thing 20: Library routes/roots

5 11 2012

As a Clinical Librarian in the NHS, I work alongside doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff to provide access to the best research evidence to support their work.  I absolutely LOVE my job and I have learned so much since starting in this role in 2008.

Libraries have always existed in my consciousness; from an early age our family routine on a Saturday was swimming then a trip to the local public library.  However, working in public libraries never really appealed to me.  Into my third year of an English Literature degree at Lancaster University I still had no idea what my future career would entail.  I did know, however, that I wanted to work in a profession that helped people, and I wanted to do something that made a difference. 

A significant moment in my library ‘calling’ was walking through Lancaster University library (in which I’d spent a lot of time during my degree) and commenting to a friend, “You know what? I’d really love to work in a library”.  I’m sure a lot of people have similar fantasies (there’s certainly something inspiring about being surrounded by all that knowledge), but it planted a seed in my head that didn’t go away.  Soon after, during a visit to the careers service, I found out more about the wide range of information professional roles that exist.  I am naturally organised, enjoy working with people and love finding the answers to difficult questions, so I guess I also had librarian tendencies that have always been part of my character!  It seemed that my future career had revealed itself at last.

I qualified as a librarian in 2004 but had limited practical experience.  While still living at home and applying for any ‘information’ jobs going, I came across an advert for a part time Library Assistant in my local hospital.  I didn’t even know that health libraries existed!  I got the job, and progressed to my first professional Librarian post.  Four years later I was successful in applying for the Clinical Librarian post, and bagged my dream job. 

A large part of my role is to find the clinical evidence to answer healthcare questions, such as, “Is drug x more effective than drug y?” and “What is the best treatment for patients presenting with x condition?”.  I also train healthcare staff in searching for the answers themselves.  I attend ward rounds alongside doctors and help them to find information to treat patients in the best way.  I support staff who are studying to further their careers, and I’m branching out into supporting business and management decision-making within the organisation.

I am still working in the same library service and I’m still only 4 miles from home.  I had expected my career to take me further afield, but now I have a home and family of my own it couldn’t have worked out any better for me.  I feel fortunate that I have a job that allows me to fulfil my original career aims.  I get to help and support healthcare professionals in finding the information that they need to look after patients.  And I get paid to do it!  There’s no better feedback than a customer telling me that information that I provided helped them to improve patient care.  Its a role that continues to challenge me.  No day is the same, and while it can be pressurised it is wholly rewarding. 

If anyone wants to find out more about working as a Clinical Librarian in the NHS, you might be interested in watching this film that I made earlier this year to explain my role.

Thing 19: Integrating Things

3 11 2012

By far the most useful thing that I’ve taken from the CPD23 programme so far is use of Twitter.  Previously I used to collect RSS feeds on Google Reader and use this as a way of keeping up to date with the latest developments in healthcare and in ‘library land’.  Since joining Twitter I barely look at my RSS feeds anymore.  I find Twitter is much more immediate and the 140 character limit allows me to scan through a large amount of information quickly.  It has also allowed me to connect and network with other information professionals and I’ve discovered a whole online network of librarians that I never knew existed.  I actually feel a bit ashamed that I didn’t join Twitter earlier; it is such a valuable professional tool that I don’t know how I managed without it!!!  I have started raving about it to anyone I meet who is working towards Chartership or keen in engaging with the wider library community.  It’s something I’m definitely going to continue to use once CPD23 is over.

The other major impact of CPD23 so far has been this blog.  Previously, I used to keep a reflective learning log on my Chartership wiki.  It was private, only viewed by myself and my mentor.  It was a great way to reflect on my learning experiences but I wasn’t engaging with other librarians about the issues that I was writing about.  Now that my thoughts and reflection is public, I have started discussions with fellow professionals, my writing is much more considered because I have an audience in mind, and I have started to read and comments on other people’s blogs.  I really really hope I can continue to blog once I’ve finished CPD23.  Lately I’ve been using the WordPress mobile app to blog from my iPhone so I can blog on the move, which is great because I struggle to find time at home and at work!