Pima County Public Library hires public health nurseby Pima County News on Feb. 23, 2012, under Health, Pima County, Public Library, Southern Arizona, Tucson
Thousands of Pima County residents and visitors flock to the Pima County Public Library and its 27 branches every day to read or check out books and other materials, use public computers, attend meetings or classes, and access information and resources.
Where people gather in large numbers, public health is always a consideration. But an expert health resource and trained responder has been missing from the library – until recently.
In January, Pima County Public Library, in partnership with the Pima County Health Department, became the first library in the nation to employ a public health nurse on site.
Registered nurse Emily Pogue spends most of her work week circulating through the Joel D. Valdez Main Library at 101 N. Stone Ave. and five branches, a stethoscope around her neck.
In the short time that she’s been on the job, she’s been able to refer dozens of library visitors with health issues – especially those without health insurance – to resources in the community.
She counseled a branch manager who had determined that a young library user had head lice. She’s met latchkey kids and answered teens’ questions about sex – and took advantage of the opportunity to talk to them about diabetes and high blood pressure. She helped a victim of domestic violence find safe shelter and get medical attention. She encourages library visitors to use the hand sanitizer that’s always available to reduce the spread of germs. “Everything is an educational moment,” Pogue says.
She listens to the worries of the elderly, the unemployed and the homeless who turn to libraries for help and safety, and directs them to social services when appropriate.
“It takes a nurse to put a gentle hand on theirs and say, ‘I’m here for you,’” Pogue says.
Karyn Prechtel, Managing Librarian at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library, began thinking about the possibility of a public health nurse on site more than a year ago and was encouraged when the San Francisco Public Library hired an on-site social worker in 2009. Pogue has already made a difference, Prechtel said.
She has been able to respond in situations that have been challenging for librarians, Prechtel said. For example, since Pogue’s arrival, the Main Library has had “fewer behavioral health incidents, which can often lead to a 911 call for assistance,” Prechtel said.
Pogue also spends time at:
- Eckstrom-Columbus Branch Library, 4350 E. 22nd St.
- Martha Cooper Branch Library, 1377 N. Catalina Ave.
- Sam Lena-South Tucson Branch Library, 1607 S. Sixth Ave.
- Santa Rosa Branch Library, 1075 S. 10th Ave.
- Woods Memorial Branch Library, 3455 N. First Ave.
She will also be training library and health department staff and eventually developing educational materials and programs.
Pogue has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in nursing from the University Phoenix and was previously clinical director of nursing at Pima Medical Institute.
“It is an answer to my prayers to be here,” she says of her new position.
For more information about the Pima County Health Department, visit www.pimahealth.org.
For more information about the Pima County Public Library, including branch locations, schedules, news and events, please visit www.library.pima.gov or call 791-4010.