It’s so often at 4:59 p.m., when you’re willing the clock to turn to 5:00, ready to spring, that the phone rings. The person on the other end begins with, “I’m not sure you can help me, but my newborn was just diagnosed with a disease I can’t even pronounce.”
“I have multiple sclerosis, I think. What are the symptoms? Where can I find help?”
“No one in my family understands my schizophrenia, and I’m at the end of my rope. Maybe it’s just not worth it.”
“Could I be having a stroke? Could I be having a heart attack?”
“My mom can’t afford her hearing aids, and I’m so frustrated. Do you have any ideas?”
“I need information! I need help!"
You sit up straighter, slow your voice down, reopen closed windows, your fingers flying furiously to find that list of symptoms, the numbers to advocacy organizations, a detox center for a man whose teenage son finally wants help, or a research study recruiting patients with treatment-resistant depression.
We have resources.
Knowledge improves lives. It’s one of the tenets on which IQ Solutions proudly stands. As information specialists, we have the opportunity to interact directly with the public to provide knowledge about health and, in doing so, to improve lives. Because of our daily, sometimes tedious, often rewarding work, a woman with lupus finds a support group full of people who understand what she’s going through even when she doesn’t look sick, a man visits his doctor armed with a list of symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis so he can request a neurological examination, a mother finds treatment centers in her town that offer payment assistance for her 7-year-old who has bipolar disorder, and a student interested in researching the blood-brain barrier is pointed in the right direction.
We empower people to find answers.
Why do these people contact the government for information when the Internet appears almost all-knowing? Why is this job still important in a tech-driven world? Because, believe it or not, not everyone has Internet access, including but not limited to inmates, many older adults, people in very rural areas, and people in areas recently hit by natural disasters. And, as we all know, the Internet can be a sticky web of unreliable or overwhelming information. IQ Solutions information specialists function as mini-librarians and subject matter experts to guide people through websites like PubMed, MedlinePlus, NIH RePORTER, and ClinicalTrials.gov. We compassionately arm requesters with answers to their sometimes complicated questions and provide resources to meet their specific needs. This is especially important when a person inquires about a rare disease because online information can be scarce. In addition, rare diseases often have multiple names, and those names have multiple spelling variations. As a mom of a baby with a rare disease, I recognize all over again the importance of these resources and the comfort of a human voice to walk you through them.
Information specialists working on various U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and National Institutes of Health contracts at IQ Solutions will interact with thousands of people throughout the year, and whether we are responding via email, letter, phone, live chat, TTY, or in person at a conference, and whether it be in English or Spanish, we will have the opportunity to provide information and referrals that will improve lives. I was asked what I would want IQ Solutions to know about this job, as we recently recognized National Information and Referral Services Day. If I could sum it up, it would be that the job of an information specialist can be rather unglamorous at times, but that the end results are something of which we, and IQ Solutions, can be very proud.