Helping students think out loud

The work of a librarian goes beyond connecting people with information. Librarians also seek to help people interpret and use information successfully.

In the case of Jim Beattie, a liaison from the Bio-Medical Library to the University’s Medical School, this comes in the form of helping students think out loud.

Small groups, big thinking

Jim Beattie
Jim Beattie

Students of the Essentials of Clinical Medicine course are familiar with the Foundations of Critical Thinking (FCT) tool for case-based learning.

FCT employs a small group setting to introduce students to clinical cases where they apply their knowledge of basic science and their clinical learning to diagnose and treat the patient presented in the case.

These groups are led by facilitators, who guide students through the cases. It is in the role of facilitator that Beattie has found a home.

“I like to think that as the only non-clinician/non-scientist facilitator, I provide a non-threatening learning space for the students to share their thoughts, which is key to solving complex problems,” Beattie said.

Turning information into knowledge

“The cases unfold beginning with the history of present illness, pertinent past, family, and social history, followed by vital signs,” Beattie said. “At this point students begin to discuss and generate a differential diagnosis list, consider tests or labs that would be important, and research their hypotheses.”

Beattie’s job is to help students navigate the clinical question, find the relevant information to support their diagnosis and treatment decisions, and communicate their findings with their team.

Beattie’s comfort as a FCT facilitator is built on experience.

“I bring my 17 years of working as a clinical librarian, my knowledge gained through participation in morning report conferences and patient rounds, and the research done in preparation for each case to guide the conversations,” he said.

A win-win collaboration

At the end of the day, many would see the students as the primary beneficiaries of Beattie’s role as an FCT facilitator. After all, it is through this work that they hone their clinical reasoning, evidence-based practice, and teamwork skills. This sentiment is clearly felt by one of his recent students, Rob Colbert:

“Jim is the perfect FCT group facilitator because he is extremely knowledgeable about all the resources available for clinicians and health sciences students offered through the Bio-Medical Library website. With his help, we were able to solve the mystery diagnoses presented to us and were able to offer legitimate plans for treatment to each of the fictional patients. Jim was also bravely willing to share personal stories with the group to provide examples of real life learning opportunities, and every once and a while to give us a good laugh. I will be using many of the resources and lessons that Jim introduced throughout my medical education as well as my career.”

Even with this benefit to students, Beattie would say that he is the one who has gained the most by helping students interpret and use the information they need to support excellence in health care. This is the work of a librarian, after all.

—Erinn Aspinall

For more information contact:
Jim Beattie, MLIS
Medical School Liaison
Bio-Medical Library
314 Diehl Hall
(612) 625-4499