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Book club: your reviews

All posts from: June 2012

Care in Mental Health - Substance Use

27 June, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: Care in Mental Health - Substance Use

Editor: David B Cooper

Publisher: Radcliffe, 2011

Reviewer: Greta McGough, freelance writer, retired university lecturer

What was it like?

This excellent book is part of a comprehensive series on mental health issues that arise from substance use and focuses upon care. Substance use includes here the use of prescription drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, and the “slope” that leads from use to abuse is recognised, so that mental health issues are not fudged.


What were the highlights? 

There are many highlights, including the structure of the book, which has many exercises, suggestions for reflective reading, scenarios and discussion of possible answers to these by the authors. The result is a book that is stimulating and exciting to read. There is no doubt that this is a collection of writings to which anyone could return again and again. The writing is thoughtful and thought-provoking, and those described in the scenarios are familiar to us all, but readers will find themselves with a refreshed attitude to how situations and individuals might be answered.

Strengths & weaknesses:

Strengths of this title include comprehensive references and the general structure of the book. This creates a book which is not only focussed and comprehensive, but also readable and accessible. There are no weaknesses as such. At first sight the reader may wonder if the authors are trying to cover too vast a spectrum, but in fact the result of their combined efforts is to produce an excellent volume, full of guidance for every aspect of care.

Who should read it?

Potential readers must include every mental health nurse in the country, because of the insights that are offered into approaches to care, and guidance through potential problems and pitfalls. But in fact because this book is broad-based and ambitious in its scope - and succeeds in that - there are also many, many thoughts and benefits for nursing staff from other disciplines, too. Students following the mental health branch would definitely benefit from these insights, and would find this a sound addition to their personal libraries. Educators in all areas could find suggestions for discussion regarding communication and listening skills, and whenever a consideration of “the whole person” is needed.


Effective GP Commissioning: Essential knowledge, skills and attitudes

26 June, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: Effective GP Commissioning: Essential knowledge, skills and attitudes 

Author: Dr Sunil Gupta

Publisher: Radcliffe Publishing, 2012

Reviewer: Liz Lees, consultant nurse and clinical dean, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, Heartlands Hospital

What was it like?

This book is designed in four sections that encompass:

  1. commissioning
  2. the knowledge needed
  3. the skills required
  4. essential attitudes

It will enable its readers to dip in and out to identify explanations for issues that they encounter in practice. It has 52 short chapters spanning numerous topics encompassing an eclectic collection of core managerial topics. The vast majority of the book is readable in short bursts and is presented, mostly, as a series of bullet points. It provides a basic overview of commissioning and a breadth of general management topics. Analysis and referencing have been kept to a bare minimum, which will appeal to those readers who may be simply familiarising themselves with many new topics, simultaneously.


Strengths & weaknesses:

It is a great pity that a few of the chapters are barely more than a couple of paragraphs that outline minimum facts on critical areas at the foundation of commissioning in the NHS. For example, the finance chapter is particularly weak, especially in the current financial climate. Without doubt, it would have benefitted from being linked to the chapters on political climate and money-saving ideas. Chapters 9 (budgets) and 10 (business plans) contain helpful steps, which could have been further illuminated with the aid of “worked examples” to further engage readers and aid application in practice. Other contributors to the topics may have added more importance to the subjects selected.

What were the highlights? 

I enjoyed the chapters on assessment of local need/population and would like to have seen much more, together with creation of new services/pathways, as this is an area where engagement and understanding of the wider multidisciplinary team is critical. I also liked some of the controversial perspectives that were discussed in further chapters. I felt this grounded the book in reality and lent it a soul and spirit, outside of its bullet point/list format.

Who should read it?

This book is best suited to junior clinical or operational (management) staff in relatively new roles. It is sufficiently adequate to whet the reader’s appetite prior to locating in-depth information regarding knowledge, skills and attitudes.

CriticAir: Starting to Read ECGs 1

25 June, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: CriticAir: Starting to Read ECGs 1

Author: Alan Davies and Alwyn Scott

Publisher: CriticAir Ltd, 2011

Reviewer: Adam Fitzgerald, staff nurse, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Essex

This book has won the 2011 British Medical Association Medical Book Award for the Health and Social Care category, as announced at a ceremony

at the BMA on 14 September 2011.

What was it like?

The book covers ECG interpretation and ties this in with conditions the patient may present with. CriticAir is a company specialising in as required ECG interpretation as well as educational courses in this area and ACS (Acute Coronary Syndrome).


What were the highlights? 

It uses detailed explanations or arrhythmias giving the aetiology of the changes in the waveform and then some of the symptoms and signs that can be expected from the patient. To support these, the authors have used real life ECGs as examples. The chapters are broken down into easy-to-digest chunks and are in a logical sequence starting from basic electrophysiology to diagnosis of cardiac conditions.

Strengths & weaknesses:

The layout of the book as aforementioned is clear and concise. It is split up into manageable chapters in a logical order. The book commences with the basic anatomy of the heart and the electrical pathways. This then progresses onto how to obtain a clear readable ECG and what to document if there are difficulties. After this the authors guide you through to characteristics of specific conditions. Another bonus is that the book is in colour and it makes it much easier to read. ECG interpretation isn’t always that thrilling a topic to read about however, it is vital.

At the end of each chapter the authors have put a small few paragraph summary and five to six questions to test your own knowledge. This helps reassure you about the knowledge that you’ve just read.

The book contains real ECGs as well as the simulated educational ones. This enables you to see what it looks like for a real patient. The majority of the images within the book are examples of real people rather than a diagram. For example, although there is a diagram of ECG electrode placement this is accompanied by the image of electrodes on a real patient.

Both authors are cardiac care nurses with an extensive background involving ECG interpretation. Plus they have gained insight from lead consultants at cardiac specialist centres. This also means that it incorporates things such as clinical competency and warnings for life threatening problems.

It’s very hard to find negatives to this book and the only thing that can really be said is that it is designed as an introduction to ECG interpretation; however it never claims to be anything other than that. The only downside to this is that there is no follow up for someone wishing to further their knowledge.

Who should read it?

This book could be useful for anyone starting out with ECG interpretation. It contains enough information to satisfy a student nurse or student doctor but is also detailed enough to supply information to those registered. Ideally though it is helpful to those who are new to cardiology, A&E or pre-hospital care where the reader can gain practice under supervision. 


Comments (3)

Advanced Practice in Healthcare

20 June, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: Advanced Practice in Healthcare  

Edited by: Carol L Cox, Marie C Hill and Victoria M Lack

Publisher: Routledge 2012

Reviewer: Phil Jevon, medical education multi professional skills manager, Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, Manor Hospital, Walsall


What was it like? 

This book provides readers with a framework for implementing advanced practice in their healthcare environment. It is divided into three sections: clinical skills (clinical decision making, consultation and planning care), management (theory, effective management skills and advanced nursing practice in the US) and the professional role in leadership (professionalism, clinical effectiveness and influencing others).


What were the highlights?  

This title is well written and appears to be well-referenced. What is particularly pleasing is the standard layout adopted by all of the contributors, making it easier for the reader to navigate the book. The use of learning outcomes listed at the beginning of each chapter is particularly helpful.

Strengths & weaknesses: 

The contributing authors and editors are all senior nurses, some currently working in clinical practice and some in higher education (or both). This senior input provides credibility for the book. The book is easy to read and follows a standard structured layout.   

An introductory chapter discussing advanced level practice is particularly helpful. The three editors discuss the Department of Health’s position statement on advanced level practice as well as the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE)’s recent report relating to it. Levels of practice are discussed in detail.

It would have been useful to include a brief overview of the book on the back of the outside cover. One of the chapters discusses advanced nursing practice in the US. It is questionable whether this chapter would be of interest and of benefit to readers not working in the US.

Who should read it? 

Being edited and written by nurses, this book is particularly aimed at nurses currently working in advanced practice or wishing to do so. Allied health professionals would also find the book of interest.


Teaching as if life matters: The promise of a new education culture

19 June, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: Teaching as if life matters: The promise of a new education culture

Authors: Christopher Uhl with Dana L Stuchul

Publisher: The John Hopkins University Press 2011

Reviewer: Ed Shields, nurse lecturer, Queen’s University Belfast


What was it like? 

The authors, a professor of biology and a teacher of curriculum and instruction (with a special interest in “the arts of living, suffering and dying”), propose what they call a new narrative – teach as if life matters.  They assert that most educators adhere to a limiting philosophy of teaching and learning; instead of “myopically prioritising the traditional ‘3 Rs’” they propose  three other ‘R’s, Relationship with Self, Relationship with Other and Relationship with Earth.  Over six chapters, they encourage readers to contemplate their relationship with their feeling bodies, their minds, self, the human other and the cosmos.  They insist that educators will be stimulated to re-examine their approach to the job of teaching and educating.  In so doing, they suggest that educators may grow to place less emphasis on analysis, problem-solving, logic and abstraction and more emphasis on social and emotional learning.


What were the highlights?  

Anyone, regardless of where one practices, who is interested in educating others, will find challenges in this book.  That does not mean one will agree with everything contained within it.  If you can read it with an open mind, it may give some people pause for thought.

Strengths & weaknesses: 

The book has an accessible writing style and is easily read.  There is ample reference to other reading material for anyone who wishes to pursue the thesis of this book.  However, this title is also replete with references to the American education system (for example grade schoolers), which may not translate easily to systems and may be less easily understood.  The book rests upon the acceptance of certain premises that some readers may not find easy to accept; perhaps that is the challenge being offered by the authors.

Who should read it? 

Anyone who is interested in educating others may find something in this book though it is perhaps not for everyone.  The development of social and emotional learning in nursing students may be compelling for some readers but whether this book will help in this quest may ultimately prove a matter of personal style.

Art Therapy and Creative Coping Techniques for Older Adults

13 June, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: Art Therapy and Creative Coping Techniques for Older Adults

Author: Susan I Buchalter

Publisher: Jessica Kingsley 2011

Reviewer: Su Southworth, research nurse at Birmingham and Midland Eye Hospital

What was it like?

A short introduction explains the way the book is intended to be used: that is as a collection of ideas with which the therapist should become familiar in order to increase the choice when working with a group of clients.

Despite the author’s protestations, this is essentially a recipe book of activities grouped under various headings. There are a large number of art activities included and descriptions are given of previous participants’ work often with an account of the symbolism of their pieces.


What were the highlights? 

The vast number of activities makes this a valuable resource and a starting point for those planning their own activities. There is a useful index that allows the readers to search by emotion, materials or subject. Each of the activities is well planned in terms of physical resources.

Strengths & weaknesses

This book could clearly be a valuable resource, however, the tone of both the preface and introduction is problematic. Resource and activity choice appear to be therapist driven and based on perceived practicality rather than client choice. Older people are referred to in a somewhat over generalised way and indeed, in places the tone feels rather patronising. The basis of any therapeutic relationship also feels doubtful when possible factors that may influence the ability of older people to participate are referred to as ”problems”. This start could negatively influence potential readers, which would be a shame given the potential value of the book.

Who should read it?

As stated, the number of activities is huge but the discussion of the possible outcomes is limited. This, therefore, is not a guide to art therapy but, seen as a book of suggested activities to be used with older people, could be a useful addition to a therapist’s bookcase. The activities may also provide suggestions for non-art therapists to plan some art-based activities with older people.

Clinical Wisdom and Interventions in Acute and Critical Care, A thinking-in-action approach, second edition

12 June, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: Clinical Wisdom and Interventions in Acute and Critical Care, A thinking-in-action approach. Second Edition.

Authors: Patricia Benner, Patricia Hooper Kyriakidis, Daphne Stannard

Publisher: Springer Publishing Company, 2011

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


What was it like?

This second edition of Clinical Wisdom and Interventions in Acute and Critical Care consists of 13 well-equipped chapters that immerse the reader into the working lives, practices and emotions of experienced nurses. The text is written in short, snappy sentences and appropriately paragraphed, therefore making it accessible to all nursing readers.

The book is focused on providing a theoretical explanation as to why experienced nurses, working in acute and critical environments, are able to work through a systemic process to solve problems and complex scenarios. It provides a rationale for why experiences within such settings enable learning beyond a textbook.

Told through the eyes of expert nursing staff from a range of clinical backgrounds and areas, accounts of real life situations are analysed closely to provide a basis for why experienced nurses are invaluable to patient care, outcomes and experience. The chapters cover a range of nurse/patient interventions from managing near fatal injuries to providing end of life care. As actual interview segments are used within the text the accounts are compelling and heart rendering at times as the humane element of nursing is visited on numerous occasions.


What were the highlights? 

The highlight of the book is the author’s ability to connect with the reader and immerse the audience in a situation that is not too far from usual practice. Benner has been previously commended for her work with providing a theoretical basis for novice to expert nurses, therefore this further addition to her works is a smooth transition and well received by a reader of her previous achievements.

Strengths & weaknesses

There are many strengths to this book as it gives solace to what nurses do each and every day, and by far the weaknesses are insubstantial to what the book achieves overall, but are worth mentioning.  The American terminology and abbreviations are sometimes difficult to incept, although the authors do offer a glossary of some terms to aid the reader throughout. There is substantial focus on paediatric nursing techniques, which may not appear of interest to other nursing professions, but it must be noted that the underlying theory is the emphasis and this can be applied to all areas of care.

Who should read it?

The book would benefit any post-registration nurse wishing to consolidate their nursing practice and experiences. It inevitably provides the reader with the correct tools to embark on becoming an experienced practitioner and the rationale for why such amazing nurses are needed within healthcare today.

Comments (1)

Nursing and Health Survival Guides for: Drugs in Use, Clinical Skills, and Health Promotion

11 June, 2012 Posted by: -


Titles: Nursing and Health Survival Guides for: Drugs in Use, Clinical Skills, and Health Promotion

Authors: Kerry Reid-Searle, Trudy Dwyer, Jackie Ryan, Lorna Moxham, Ann Richards, Dominic Upton and Ann Richards

Publisher: Pearson, 2009, 2010

Reviewer: Adam Roxby, student nurse at Anglia Ruskin University


What was it like?

Pocket guides and mini reference books are the mainstay of a nurse’s apparel, so how can these books priced around £5 each compete with some of the cheaper or free options?


I have three books here from arguably the most successful range of pocket guides for nurses. The content is varied. For example, in the clinical skills book there is a rundown of all the vital signs observations, medication administration and full body assessment tools to name but a few. In the drug use guide there is a comprehensive list of some common drugs, which affected different systems within the body. This is certainly handy for students or newly qualified nurses getting to grips with medication. Finally, there is the student nurse health promotion guide, which feels slightly out of place. It covers  subjects such as smoking cessation through to advocating safe sex. I understand the intention but I question the relevance of a health promotion guide for students when a lot of its contents may go beyond the remit of a student nurse.


There is an awful lot of information crammed into each guide and it’s surprising how it manages to maintain its portable profile. On the flipside, it may be a little overwhelming for some people who would appreciate less text and more images. The fact that the text is all monochrome and there is no clear indexing could put people off.


To its credit it is physically presented well with a striking cover image and laminated pages. There is also some referencing of the information contained in the guides for those wanting to find out more.

In conclusion, despite some issues these guidebooks are some of the most comprehensive around. While not every subject will be relevant it’s highly likely some will be essential tools for your daily work.

What were the highlights? 

These pocket guides are portable size and offer a concise source of information

Strengths & weaknesses

The books feature lots of information, are well produced, and have some references but the guides are slightly overwhelming and could do with some more images.

Who should read it?

These pocket guides are more targeted to nurses on a ward but still useful for students.

Critical care nursing science and practice (second edition)

1 June, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: Critical care nursing science and practice (second edition)

Authors: Sheila K Adam and Sue Osborne

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Reviewer: Katherine Potts, cardiac specialist nurse, North Bristol NHS Trust


What was it like?

This book covers care of the critically ill patient in a critical care environment, incorporating knowledge and skills needed to look after this group. It is easy to read and set out in a logical sequence with a practical approach to patient care. There are 17 chapters exploring all major body systems including cardiac, renal, neurological and respiratory. There is also coverage of the critical care environment from the perspective of why it is needed and its background, along with the requirements of the critical care unit. The book is written primarily by two nurse consultants in critical care with chapter authors and chapter contributions from other experts in their respective fields.


What were the highlights? 

Each chapter includes anatomy and physiology, patient assessment, specific disease conditions that may be seen and practicalities of patient care using an ABCDE approach. The troubleshooting sections are useful and provide a list of problems and how the problem is manifested along with the causes and the actions that can be taken. The chapter on endocrine, obstetric and drug overdose emergencies was interesting, evidence based and provided practical and theoretical knowledge on these aspects of practice.

Strengths & weaknesses

The book provides a good general overview and a base knowledge of the areas covered but it may be necessary to read or research areas further where more information is required. The text includes pictures, tables and figures to illustrate and highlight key information. However these are all in grey/black and white and it would have benefited at times to have included colour images. The ‘test yourself’ sections at the end of the chapters are useful to check knowledge and understanding with answers provided.  The information is evidence based with a comprehensive reference list and bibliography provided at the end of each chapter. While the care of the dying patient and ethical issues are briefly covered this could have been expanded and explored in more detail.

Who should read it?

Nurses and other allied health professionals new to the critical care environment or undertaking post registration courses.  Also those working in critical care wanting to update on areas of practice, which may not be regularly undertaken.


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