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Book club: your reviews

All posts from: March 2012

A loving approach to dementia care

27 March, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: A Loving Approach to Dementia Care

Author: Laura Wayman

Publisher: The John Hopkins University Press, 2011

Reviewer: Nigel Jopson, operational support manager, Care UK, Palmers Green, London


What was it like?

At first sight, this seems to be a self-help book on how to be a better carer when helping somebody with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other memory loss. However, I quickly realised that there is so much more than that to this work. Within the first few pages I had found three different things I wanted to share with my team members, which can help them appreciate more deeply what they were dealing with. I have printed one phrase out and stuck it on my office wall to remind me about my job and role. It reads

  • People will forget what you said.
  • People will forget what you did.
  • People will never forget how you made them feel

Parts of it are intensely personal, especially when talking about carers over extending and exhausting themselves without realising. There is one of the best descriptions of dementia I have read, which breaks it down and explains it as well as differentiating it simply from delirium.

The short accounts of particular incidents and occurrences are touching and demonstrate a variety of problems and happenings as a result of dementia and are believable. The lessons learned show coping strategies and discuss various ways of approaching the problems to help resolve them. It does at times clarify what you may already be instinctively doing and put a more solid framework around it.


What were the highlights?

I found this book to be so much better than I expected after having briefly looked at it. The approach is inclusive and I felt involved with what was happening in each chapter. It is a book I wanted to share with everybody. It made me laugh out loud, it made me cry (really!) but most of all it made me think.

Strengths and weaknesses?

It is an American book and so has some things that may not be familiar to us. As an example ‘It’s bath night’ describes life in a log cabin with no water or electricity, but the lessons learned and perceptions can be transposed to our own experiences. Some of the references used may be difficult to track down but still valid. However, as a resource I feel it is invaluable and I will be keeping it near to hand. It is not only a useful tool for use with dementia but it is also life-affirming (and I never expected to use that term without a certain cynicism).

Who should read it?

It is a good book to help carers of people living with dementia as it gives answers and coping strategies. It will help them to realise they are not alone or unique and that there are others who have faced the same problems and dealt with them, and tells them how they could do it. It is a good resource also for professionals in the field as it will give some insights into how people can be helped in their lives. I will personally find it useful as a tool to help with teaching and explaining things to staff, as well as reassuring relatives that there are ways of handling all of the problems and different things that happen.

Gift of Time

26 March, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: Gift of Time

Authors:  Rory Maclean with Joan and Katrin Maclean

Publisher: Constable 

Reviewer: Helen Simkins, clinical nurse manager, St Giles Walsall Hospice


What was it like?

The Gift of Time looks at the viewpoints of people with cancer and their families, considering how they are affected by living with the condition. After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Joan moves in with her son Rory, who is the author of the book, and his wife Katrin. It is from here that each keeps a diary that documents their day-to-day struggles, emotions and personal anguish. The Gift of Time is an honest, frank and sometimes difficult account of a family’s experience of the journey from diagnosis of cancer through to the death of a loved one. It is a moving account of how a family comes to terms with the reality of losing a close relative and the adaptations and sacrifices that are made throughout their journey.


What were the highlights?

The book makes the reader feel that they have been invited to share in a family’s most private of journeys. It draws you into the emotion, pain, anger, despair and joy that are felt by the three people, and allows for an understanding of how a diagnosis of cancer not only affects the patient but the family, friends and carers.

Strengths and weaknesses?

The format is a personal experience being written as a diary. It allows the reader a sense of participation and draws them into the family’s life, sharing in their pain, sadness and moments of happiness. It is also this personal approach to documenting their journey that sometimes feels intrusive, as the reader becomes part of their private moments. However, the book manages to get the balance right, allowing this to be a life-affirming, inspiring and hopeful read that leaves you in awe of the tremendous experience that each has been through.

Who should read it?

This edition would appeal to a large audience. It will give nurses a greater understanding of the plights that patients and families go through on a day-to-day basis when dealing with a terminal illness. The book would also appeal to anyone wanting to gain a more insightful view on how families deal with the loss of a loved one.




Nursing before Nightingale, 1815-1899 (The History of Medicine in Context)

20 March, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: Nursing before Nightingale, 1815-1899 (The History of Medicine in Context)

Authors: Carol Helmstadter, Judith Godden

Publisher: Ashgate Publishing Ltd

Reviewer: Paul Watson RN, BA(Hons), SCPHN, PSHE, PGCE. school nurse, Norfolk Community Health and Care (NCH+C)

What was it like?

Nursing Before Nightingale describes itself as a study of the transformation of nursing in England from the beginning of the nineteenth century until the emergence of the Nightingale nurse as the standard model in the 1890s. This book discusses two major earlier reforms in nursing: a doctor-driven reform, which came to be called the ‘ward system’, and the reforms of the Anglican Sisters, known as the ‘central system’ of nursing. Rather than being the beginning of nursing reform, Nightingale nursing was the culmination of these two earlier reforms. This book hopes to demonstrate through the use of historical literature and accounts that the real cause of nursing reform was the development of the new scientific medicine. It also demonstrates how the pre-industrial work ethic of the old hospital nurses could not meet the requirements of the new medicine. And it makes the connection between this being a female vocation, working class, not socially mobile employment, and the problems with recruitment and retention of nurses in the early nineteenth century (a situation that I am sure we could all relate to today).


What were the highlights?

I believe that any reader will be struck by the similarities of events and practices that have gone on in the past, and how we seem destined to repeat events in later years (even down to detailing how matron was balancing the budget by closing beds and laying off nurses). I liked seeing how the nurse and the nursing profession has evolved from the depicted “Sarah Gamps”, the caricature of the callous domiciliary nurse created by the novelist Charles Dickens, to the nurse we know today. Initially I was not impressed to be reminded that nurses were originally nothing more than cleaners of furniture and property, and had little to do with patients. This did, however, make me smile as the nurse evolved into a career, with one important part of her job being to ensure that the patients received adequate food and hydration (perhaps some trusts need to have a copy of this book).

Strengths and weaknesses?

While I found the subject of this book interesting, it was at times a bit of a difficult read. There was a lot of fascinating information and facts, but at times there was a feeling of repetition from chapter to chapter, with this at times making it tough to hold my concentration. On the whole, though, it was a pleasant book to study. I was able to pick it up and put it down without losing the flow of that chapter. I was, however, surprised at the price of this book, retailing at a recommended £65, and would possibly suggest looking at a library copy to see if you would get your moneys worth from it. I was pleased to see that I was able to find an eBook version, but this was similarly priced to the hardback version.

Who should read it?

I believe that this book will be of great value to those studying the history of medicine, labour, religion, gender studies and the rise of a respectable society in the nineteenth century. I would be recommending this as an interesting read to any pre registration student to be able to gain an understanding of how the current nurse and nursing system developed and evolved into that of the current profession.

Developing Advanced Assessment Skills: Patients with Long-Term Conditions (LTCs)

12 March, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: Developing Advanced Assessment Skills: Patients with Long-Term Conditions (LTCs)

Authors: Edited by Ann Saxon & Sue Lillyman

Publisher:  M&K Publishing

Reviewer: Dr. Jo Wilson, senior research associate, Wilson Healthcare Services

What was it like?

A practical text book aimed at self-learning with coverage of several models of assessment, care planning and physical examinations. It has nine chapters and the first four provide proactive use of history taking, physical examination, patient assessment tools including proactive assessments for anticipatory events with action planning, personal plans and action planning using positive aspects to care planning. These sections clearly link learning to continuous professional development, reflective practice, KSF and developing leadership skills.

Chapters 5-9 cover specific assessments for chronic respiratory disease, chronic heart failure, diabetes mellitus, musculoskeletal pain and multiple sclerosis. These sections are well written with clear links to evidence-based practice, established quality standards and clinical outcomes. There is good use of photographs, and use of objective and subjective data from patients.



What were the highlights?

The highlights for me were the exercises provided throughout each chapter, which were linked to case scenarios and the application of various models.  Also the use of diagrams with labels to be completed by the reader and websites to check the answers. The textbook is well laid out with usage of tables, photographs and description. It is also well referenced, uses good internet linked resources and areas for further information and advice.

Strengths and weaknesses?

The strengths are around self-directed learning and the LTCs, which the book covers really well. The weaknesses are around the lack of patient and professional joint decision making and the encouragement of patient independence and use of the autonomy. More could also have been applied to the involvement of carers and family members including the important roles they play in the assessment processes. The skills in these areas are essential in caring for people with LTCs. More could have been referenced or applied to around Integrated Care and the importance of the multidisciplinary team in assessment and diagnosis of LTCs.

Who should read it?

Potential readers are nurses with an interest in caring for people with LTCs, case workers, community matrons and nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, junior doctors and carers of people and people with LTCs.

Nursing Research in Action: Exploring, Understanding and Developing Skills. 3rd Edition

6 March, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: Nursing Research in Action: Exploring, Understanding and Developing Skills. 3rd Edition.

Authors: Burnard P., Morrison P., Gluyas H

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Reviewer:  Amy Hallport, staff nurse, Accident and Emergency Department, Royal Lancaster Infirmary

What was it like?

Written by senior nursing lecturers, this third edition of Nursing Research in Action aims to aid novice, aspiring researchers through the sometimes terrifying prospect of preparing, undertaking and displaying their own studies.

This handy-sized concise book encompasses 10 chapters using a step by step approach, which covers topics such as searching current literature and choosing data collection methods. Within each chapter, subtitles separate the main points and tasks that introduce the reader to specific exercises that can be undertaken individually or in a group. This edition also offers a vast amount of further reading material that includes journal articles and books in an attempt to widen the reader’s understanding of some topics that are covered briefly by the author.


What were the highlights?

The book excels in suggesting from whom and where you should locate relevant information needed to undertake a research project. It covers contacting the British Library to access difficult to obtain literature, to explaining and gaining ethical approval.

Strengths and weaknesses?

It is easy to read and understand due to the explanations used by the authors that describe some difficult key concepts. To my mind, it’s a work of art in the way it explains so much so clearly. Collectively, it could be defined as a research diary, reminding the reader to undertake tasks, advising on note keeping, academic support and financial funding. The research process is addressed in a systematic and manageable manner, easing the reader into its methods successfully.

The index would benefit from a glossary of terms, which would assist the reader quickly when accessing published research and using statistical programs to interpret their own results for display. Principally the authors do their job in easing the amateur researcher into the world of conducting experiments and investigations, while discussing the structure and process involved in doing so correctly.

Although the authors do touch upon the concepts of validly, reliability and credibility more in-depth discussion is required to reiterate the importance this poses on research in the 21st century.

Who should read it?

If you’re a novice to research, its methods and process, or revisiting research to consolidate learning with a view to conducting your own study, on whatever scale, then this is an excellent reference guide that can be used by students, nurses and specialist clinicians. As research is used in all sectors of nursing practice, this book doesn’t fixate on any individual area, making it relevant to all fields and disciplines. It will inevitably aid all nurses to understand research that may have been previously viewed as unreadable, unobtainable or difficult to understand.

Laugh ‘til it heals. Notes from the world’s funniest cancer mailbox

5 March, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: Laugh ‘til it heals. Notes from the world’s funniest cancer mailbox

Author: Christine K. Clifford

Publisher: Anshan Ltd

Reviewer: Carol Singleton, Queen’s nurse, clinical governance manager, British Red Cross


What was it like?

This little book aims to remind us that humour can be a great healer, and just because you, or a friend or relative, has cancer, you can and should retain a sense of humour. The worst possible thing to do around people with cancer is to talk in hushed tones, look sad, avoid talking about illness and pretend that there is nothing wrong.


What were the highlights?

Christine Clifford has brought together stories provided by cancer survivors of humorous events in their lives. Her book is divided into ten chapters. I particularly enjoyed the one called “Funny you asked…”, which includes a dozen ways that the Cancer Club suggests you can bring a smile to a cancer patient and show that you care. Most of the suggestions are practical, offering ideas separately to cancer patients and their supporters. These include recording their journey through their illness or providing a basket of useful items or  household necessities, but also whimsical things, such as a back scratcher, sweets or bubble bath.

Strengths and weaknesses?

The author is American, therefore some aspects of the book are more pertinent to the US market, such as the useful resources for people with cancer, which includes organisations (all American) that provide valuable information about cancer. You can access their websites and may find some of the more generic information helpful. There is also information on the world’s leading authorities on the use of therapeutic humour, including a potted history of the ten people with contact details, e-mail addresses and websites.

Who should read it?

This good book could provide alternative ways of coping with cancer and therefore would benefit people diagnosed with cancer, their families and friends as well as healthcare staff involved with their treatment and support. It achieves this by providing practical things to do, different ways of coping with and material to re-introduce humour, providing “permission” to laugh again.

Nurse past present and future; the making of modern nursing

1 March, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: Nurse past present and future; the making of modern nursing

Editors: Kate Trant, Susan Usher

Publisher: Black Dog Publishing

Reviewer: Greta McGough, freelance writer, retired university lecturer


What was it like?

While we may not always be able to see the benefits of books about the history of nursing, this one takes the idea a little further, considering what the future may hold for our roles and for our profession. In a time when our actions are under scrutiny more than ever before, we can benefit massively from a collection of discussions that help us to set ourselves in the historical context. We can learn from the struggles and changes of history. We can always prepare ourselves better for what the future may hold.


What were the highlights?

I like the way that the editors of this book have devised the different sections and the titles, under which they have separated their discussion. Each of these has a historical component, as well as looking at the present and then moving on to future possibilities and areas for discussion. The book is divided into four sections: What is a Nurse?, which defines the nursing role past and present; Passport to the World, which comprehensively covers nursing migration and the international perspective; The Workplace: Hospital, Home and Beyond, which looks at hospital design and community care: and Transforming Care, which looks at relationships within the healthcare team and nurses at the forefront of service redesign. There are interesting chapters on why Florence Nightingale is still relevant to us today, nurse education moving out of the hospital and relationships between nurses and doctors. This allows readers to gain a sense of completeness, when considering the different aspects of our profession.

Strengths and weaknesses?

In some ways, because it is beautifully illustrated it may be possible to mistake it for a “coffee table” book, and to miss the wealth of information, references and ideas that it contains. But this book has strengths far beyond that. As we begin to climb the ladder (and to constantly re-assess what we are really about) the discussions within this edition can provide its readers with a wealth of insights and food for thought.

Who should read it?

Every qualified nurse, especially those beginning to consider their future role, as they climb the promotion ladder would benefit from reading this book.



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