Skip to Main Content

Competences: 23 Things Reference - Thing #7

Medical Reference Ethics

Medical Reference can be a tricky thing.  Your job as a library employee is to provide good information.  Nothing more and nothing less.  Your job is not to interpert this kind of information, just provide it.

That being said, your job DOES NOT include diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Do not try to play doctor, because if you do you could possibly put yourself and the library in a compromising position.  If someone asks for a diagnosis or if you are uncomfortable with any questions, please refer them to Abby. Penny, Laura E., or Keith.

Do not be discouraged from providing information.  For example, if someone asks you for information about colon cancer, show them information about colon cancer.  If someone asks you if they might have cancer, refer them to a qualified medical professional.

How to Find Good Medical and Health Information Online

Like any information online, there is good and there is bad.  With medical information though, there could be negative consequences to your health.  How do you know what is good and what is bad?  Here are a few things to look at.

1) Where are you finding the source of the information?  Look at the source of your information and ask yourself what the motives are of the source.  The best place for accurate medical information is government website, recognized colleges and universities, associations with known reputations (like the American Heart Association), or hospitals and medical centers.

2) Who wrote this information?  Did a qualified medical professional write or review this?

3) Is this information current?  The depth of human knowledge grows daily.  This is particularly true with medical information.  Today's miracle drug could be tomorrow's asbestos.

For more information and tips, visit

For a GREAT tutorial video, visit

After you watch that tutorial, watch this video:

Question for Thing #8

A patron comes in and asks for help finding job postings as a butcher.  Where are some places that you might look to help them find this information?  Send your answer as an email attachment to


MedLinePlus is the information portal to all things medical from the National Library of Medicine, a part of the National Institutes of Health.  This is the best single source of reliable medical information available online. Medline contains information on many diseases and perscription and over the counter-drugs.

You can access it through


WebMD is similar to MedLinePlus, although it is a commercial site and ad supported.  It also provides information on common conditions and topics, as well as drugs and supplements and how to live a healthy life.  WebMD also has communities, health news, and a really good SymptomChecker.

You can access it through

Get to know this website because it is going to be big.  The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is here.  This is the federal government's main source of public information on ACA and the Health Insurance Marketplaces.

You can access it through

Clinical Trials is "a registry and results database of publicly and privately supported clinical studies of human participants conducted around the world."  If you are looking for research currently being conducted, this is an excellent place to start.

You can access it through


Answer the following questions about medical reference.  Your answers should be sent as an email attachment to

1) Are the following authoritative sources of medical information?  Is this information reliable?  Why or why not?



2) What is the drug Gemfibrozil used to treat?  Use MedLinePlus to find the answer.

3) Who gets Nursemaids Elbow? Use WebMD to find the answer.

4) Now that the Affordable Healthcare Act has taken effect, what Federal government website would go to to enroll for a plan online?