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Clinical experts act as 'human books' for the NHS Living Library in Bristol

As part of Health Information Week, Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) NHS Trust, North Bristol NHS Trust, and United Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust came together to form Bristol’s NHS Living Library, giving the public the opportunity to ‘check out’ staff from a wide array of health disciplines and talk to them about their experiences.

Living Libraries work like normal libraries – visitors browse the catalogue, choose titles they are interested in, and borrow them for a defined amount of time. The difference is that the books are people, and reading consists of a conversation.

Psychologists, psychiatrists, consultant haematologists, the head of occupational therapy, nurses, nurse trainers and researchers acted as human ‘books’ and were available to check out for 15-minute slots, giving people the opportunity to really find out what it’s like to experience and work in the healthcare sector through open and informal conversations.



Emma Hopkins, a research sister from the cardiac surgery research team at University Hospital Bristol, acted as a human book within Bristol’s NHS Living Library.

Speaking about the event Emma said: 

“Each ‘book’ was given a table and ‘borrowers’ who had booked a 15 minute slot to ask us about our careers/field of work. My first booking was a lady who was interested in a career change and wanted to gain a better understanding of what is involved in clinical trials. We talked through what is involved in setting up and running clinical trials and she was clearly surprised to learn how much was involved in safely seeing patients through a study.”

“One ‘borrower’ was applying for nurse training and was interested to know my career path and how I came to work in research. This was a good opportunity to help give her a better understanding in what is involved in nurse training, whilst promoting research as a possible career choice.”



“Another ‘borrower’ was interested to learn about how to conduct some research of her own, looking at parents’ experience of  support from NHS staff whilst caring for a children suffering from chronic illness. Her interest in this was sparked by personal experience of supporting her child through a long period of illness involving many hospital admissions. We talked through the difference between quantitative and qualitative research, and whilst my experience is very much in the quantitative field, I was able to guide her towards courses that she may find beneficial as a starting point for learning about how to conduct qualitative research.”

Speaking about her overall experience Emma said: “Initially I didn’t know what to expect, but having done this, I think it’s a great way of allowing those interested in research to gain specific information from someone with experience in the field.”

Read more about national events for Health Information Week on their website here.