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Book club: your reviews

All posts from: July 2012

Palliative and end of life care for children and young people: home, hospice and hospital

31 July, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: Palliative and end of life care for children and young people :home, hospice and hospital.

Author: Anne Grinyer

Publishers:  Wiley Blackwell 2012

Reviewer: R Becker, senior lecturer in palliative care

What was it like?

Just occasionally a professional book comes along that draws you in and holds your attention the more you read it. This timely and sensitively written text from Anne Grinyer is a worthy addition to the small but growing range of literature in this emotive but hugely important and often neglected area of palliative care.

The book is based around the results of two research studies, which looks at firstly the palliative and end of life care options for teenagers and young adults and lastly an evaluation of children’s hospice services. The interview approaches were broadly similar in each, but it’s the comparative analysis thatis the broad thrust of the book, which is highly informative and insightful. 

The chapters are laid out in a user-friendly format with a clear font and liberal use of subheadings to break up the text with the references in a master list at the end of the book, rather than at the end of each chapter. For those wanting a quick synopsis of the content the “Lessons for Best Practice” section ending each chapter is really useful and helps draw the content together.


What were the highlights? 

I particularly liked the strong emphasis on the needs of teenagers and young adults who seem to fall into a ”black hole” in the care system no matter what the environment. The point is made that little is offered either by the mainstream NHS and social services or indeed charitable hospices, which is geared to their needs and I applaud the authors’ courage in challenging the status quo.

Strengths & weaknesses:

As the title suggests the focus in on care in the home, the hospice and the hospital with much of the discussion surrounding the lived experience of families by the extensive use of vignettes to highlight the complex issues involved in such care. It would be easy for this approach to become over emotive, but the author avoids this by the careful use of research in the discussion to offer a pragmatic analysis that informs and points the way forward for future service development.

Who should read it?

It is largely aimed at community children’s nurses, specialist palliative care teams, staff in children’s hospices, paediatric social workers and paediatric nurses. I suggest it will also prove to be useful reading for hospice trustees, student nurses, commissioners of services and families of children affected by life limiting illness. To reach such a wide-ranging audience demands a writing style that is fluent, articulate and unpretentious, alongside a strong evidence base to support the discussion, something the author has achieved with ease.

Overall the authors’ extensive knowledge and experience in the field enliven this book with a well balanced critical appraisal of the current issues, a touch of humility and an impassioned plea for better understanding and services for young people. It’s a worthy addition to anyone’s collection and deserves to succeed.     

Working with children who need long-term respiratory support

31 July, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: Working with children who need long-term respiratory support

Author: Jaqui Hewitt-Taylor

Publisher: M&K Update, 2011

Reviewer: Paul Watson RN, BA(Hons), PGCE, MIfL. school nurse NCH+C (Norfolk NHS)


What was it like?

This book discusses many of the day-to-day needs of children who require long-term respiratory support. This includes their physical requirements, but also their emotional, social and educational needs, and the needs of their families. It aims to discuss all the aspects of care that such children and their families may need, and also to place these in the context of seeing the child as a whole person and as a part of society. To achieve this, six case studies of children who need long-term respiratory support are used throughout the book.  I felt that each of the case studies that were detailed were of children that had a primary medical condition. I considered that these cases would generally be better described as a life-limiting condition with a respiratory need, rather than just as children who need long-term respiratory support. (life-limiting conditions: life-limiting conditions are those for which there is no reasonable hope of cure. Some of these conditions cause progressive deterioration rendering the child increasingly dependent on parents and carers)


What were the highlights? 

I found that having the case studies running throughout the entire book allowed the reader to maintain a focus on the issues in hand, especially the holistic needs of the case studies. At times I was fully immersed in the back stories of the case subjects and was quite emotional having read what they had been through, and would continue to go through. The details of care required for these case subjects was not just limited to their respiratory support but also the general care required for their general daily living and was detailed and thought provoking.

Strengths & weaknesses:

I think that the title of this book was slightly misleading. While the content was excellently written and provided great information on the care of children with respiratory needs, it generally covered the greater needs of children with disabilities. From the title of the book I was expecting to be able to learn more about the care needs of children with asthma, (1.1 million children are currently receiving treatment for asthma in the UK. That’s 1 in 11 children (, although there was little (almost none) reference to children with asthma. Instead, the book focussed on the six case studies of children, all of whom had other life-limiting conditions that resulted in additional specialist respiratory care needs. Perhaps the book title would have been better if it had been “Working with Children that have Life Limiting Conditions, also requiring Long term Respiratory Support.”  

Who should read it?

This book may be a useful tool for  any student nurse, carer or community nurse that are likely to be caring with children that have any form of life limiting condition. I hope that this title will encourage the reader to think holistically about the needs of their patients and to develop as a practitioner able to work with children with these conditions.  

Panic on a Plate

31 July, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: Panic on a Plate

Author: Rob Lyons

Publisher: Imprint Academic, 2011

Reviewer: Louise Goodyear, mature access student

What was it like?

Panic on Plate is a refreshing take on how we perceive food in society today. I found this book to be a fascinating read as it certainly challenges misconceptions that as a society we have with food, diets and how the middle class dominate the food industry.

I enjoy the way this book takes quite a sociological outlook on food consumption, that food is monopolised by a capitalist society and we as the working class are perhaps misguided by the government to eat our five-a-day, when in fact we should be able to make a free choice on what we consume.

Panic on a plate looks at how many feel robbed of the enjoyment that food gives us when in fact we should be embracing food when there are so many in other countries still starving and undernourished.

It looks at many sides of the arguments that food is blamed for our obesity time bomb when in fact it could be seen that alternative food manufactures have indeed planted a seed of doubt in our heads that junk is bad, and organic is the way forward.

Rob Lyons argues that junk food is in fact as nutritious as healthy food and gives many references from other food critics and health professions, which I feel is true due to having been on a weight loss/food journey myself, I can relate to a lot of the content in this book.


What were the highlights? 

This title is definitely a must for anyone who loves food but dreads that it  will make me fat or unhealthy, which is probably half of the population.

I enjoyed the light-hearted approach but the serious messages that the book conveyed that being thin and constantly worrying about what we consume is no way to live. It encourages us to embrace  food. This book helps you see there are ways to make healthy choices but have a bit of what you fancy as well, which may ensure we as a nation may be able to enjoy our food more and appreciate what we have.

Strengths & weaknesses:

I feel that the book overall has many strengths, those being the inclusion of familiar names into the text so that you can relate to these famous people whoshare your view on food. It has many statistics, which I felt were useful as well.

No real weaknesses in this book other than I was disappointed when I came to the end. I could have read on and on.

Who should read it?

I feel this book will have a varied audience, such as health professionals interested in lifestyle changes and food, dieticians, nurses and even the general public whom perhaps need a light-hearted candid look on how food is consumed in society today.

Also student nurses will enjoy it. I think when I start my nursing in September this book will be invaluable within the health promotion aspect of my course.

Commissioning for Health and Wellbeing: an introduction

30 July, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: Commissioning for Health and Wellbeing: an introduction

Edited by: Jon Glasby

Publisher: The Policy Press

Reviewer: Michaela McAndrew RMN CMHN, community mental health nurse


What was it like?

This is a topical subject in light of the recent passing of the health and social care bill. It appears that nurses will all need to become more aware of commissioning and this book describes what it is, where it comes from and how to do it. It also gives thorough explanations about how to assess need, how to decommission services and different models of service commissioning and provision. The book is largely based on the NHS though uses examples from other organisations to highlight various points.


What were the highlights? 

 This book is user friendly. It is broken into easy-to-read chunks and starts at the beginning assuming no prior knowledge. As a beginner in this area I found the introductory chapters extremely helpful in giving a history and a basic description of the various models.

Strengths & weaknesses:

It is accessible and easy to understand, it uses case examples, which makes the theoretical explanations easy to apply to various frontline areas of healthcare. The only weakness was that it is focussed on the NHS, both in terms of history, policy and examples. This makes it a valuable resource for UK NHS based readers but it probably would not be as relevant to international readers.

Who should read it?

This title describes itself as a textbook and indeed there are exercises at the end of each chapter giving the impression it is a course text for those studying health and wellbeing management or commissioning. I believe however, that it is a valuable read for all nurses, midwives and other health professionals as the way our healthcare services are being planned and purchased is changing and as frontline clinicians it is important that nurses have an understanding of these processes to influence them in a way to benefit our service users.

Nothing personal-disturbing undercurrents in cancer care

24 July, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: Nothing personal-disturbing undercurrents in cancer care

Author: Mitzi Blennerhassett

Publisher: Radcliffe Publishing

Reviewer: Rebecca Bailey-McHale, community health nurse, Department of Health Isle of Man


What was it like?

“Nothing personal” is part of the Radcliffe patient narrative series and demonstrates what a powerful medium this is. This is one of the most humbling and emotive books that I have read in a long time. It packs a huge punch and puts the person back into the patient. The book follows Mitzi’s journey through cancer diagnosis, treatment and survival.  The author shows in a skilful manner how Mitzi the person and Mitzi the patient have to learn to face the reality of cancer and its inevitable fallout. At times the book was difficult to read, evoking as it did a sense of professional shame. I found myself wanting to ask the nurses and doctors “why aren’t you listening?” “What about her pain?”  My frustration and dismay begins when her journey begins and continues on Mitzi’s behalf as each chapter romps on horrifically demonstrating her further dehumanisation.  Mitzi learns to channel her own frustrations and by the end of the book, has found her voice and receives acknowledgement and recognition of the atrocious lack of empathy and compassion she experienced.  She eventually finds her place in a number of committees and organisations in which she is able to represent the silenced voices of other patients. As a professional I can seek some solace in that Mitzi’s experience occurred 20 years ago. In the last 20 years huge improvements have been made placing communication as a key skill for all health and social care professionals. The last few chapters show Mitzi’s increasing presence in service user representation and reflect the strides made in putting the patient at the centre of their care. Although the story happened two decades ago, the message to professionals is as strong as ever for us it is our work life but for the patient it is literally their whole life.


What were the highlights? 

Each chapter contains a collection of poems written by Mitzi, which bring a personal and emotional touch. At the end of each chapter is a discussion section that explores through questions and answers some of the most traumatic features described in the chapter.  Every section concludes with a “what needed to change” reflection, where Mitzi is able to identify how her experience could have been made better and how the professionals involved could have contributed to this.

Strengths & weaknesses:

It is easy to get absorbed in this book; it is well written and easy to access.  It has an in depth reference list and further reading section.  There are a number of drawings completed by Mitzi which add to the personal narrative. The only weakness I encountered is the bleak picture it portrays of the relationship between practitioner and patient with little acknowledgement of the improvements made in the intervening years.

Who should read it?

Any health and social care professional. Anybody with an interest in patient care.

Manage your pain. Practical and positive ways of adapting to chronic pain

19 July, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: Manage your pain. Practical and positive ways of adapting to chronic pain 

Author: Dr Michael Nicholas, Dr Allan Molloy, Lois Tonkin and Lee Beeston 

Publisher: Souvenir Press 

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


What was it like?

Manage your pain is a book that looks at the causes of chronic pain and provides practical solutions for people to implement into their lives, to help reduce the discomfort that they encounter. The first five chapters, look at what chronic pain is and also at what happens to your body when you’re in pain. The rest of the book shows the ways to manage the pain that people encounter, ranging from setting goals to using relaxation.  It is well written and covers the chapters well by providing the reader with enough information without being overwhelming.


What were the highlights? 

This title allows people who suffer from chronic pain,alternative methods of addressing it. The way the book is set out enables manageable chunks of information to be digested and provides a framework for incorporating practical steps into your everyday life. It provides a message of hope for chronic pain sufferers that they can continue their day-to-day lives and regain the control that they felt they had lost.

Strengths & weaknesses

It provides alternative way of addressing the pain that people suffer and enables them to look at how they can adapt practical solutions to the minimise the impact that pain and discomfort has on their day to day lives. The book allows you to understand that often there is a pattern to your pain and that there can often be practical steps that can help reduce the discomfort and pain that you encounter.  The incorporation of research studies at the end of the book support the described in the book. At over 250 pages long, the book could have benefitted form an index due to the vast amount of information provided.

Who should read it?

This book would be useful for individuals who have or are suffering from chronic pain and want to try alternative ways in easing the pain and discomfort that they are in. The book enables its readers to take back some of the onus in making adaptive changes to their lifestyles to improve their pain. It would also be beneficial for students, as it would enable them to think of alternative ways to address patients pain that does not completely respond to analgesics.





The Textbook of Non-Medical Prescribing

18 July, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: The Textbook of Non-Medical Prescribing

Authors: Dilyse Nuttall & Jane Rutt-Howard

Publisher: Blackwell Publishing -2001

Reviewer: Julie Fawcett, specialist nurse, bladder and bowel service, South Tyneside Foundation Trust


What was it like?

This book is a great text book for all those undergoing the non-medical prescribing course in order to be able to prescribe safely and effectively. It is well laid out and has activities and case studies throughout, which are great for getting to grips with key concepts. Many books relating to this subject can be in too much detail and not always related to practice. This title, however, has a good mixture of information that you can relate to your own clinical practice. It has a useful contents page, enabling you to easily find the chapter you need without searching for the page you need. The activities sections at the end of each chapter also offer the reader further reading ideas, for example, websites to visit or points to consider, which is great for learning. I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone like me who has found the non-medical prescribing a challenge.

All in all a really informative and applicable book, which is well written by two authors who are also nurses and nurse prescribers.


What were the highlights? 

Easy to read and well laid out.

Strengths & weaknesses:

Contents well laid out. Activities at each section. Looks at so many aspects of non-medical prescribing and the realistic challenges that may occur in clinical practice. As for the weaknesses - I honestly can’t see any.

Who should read it?

Any health professional that is planning or studying to be a non-medical prescriber.

A Wartime Nurse

16 July, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: A Wartime Nurse

Author: Maggie Hope

Publisher: Ebury Press 2011

Reviewer: Carlson Coogler, intern, Nursing Times

What was it like?

A Wartime Nurse is a novel that follows the life of Theda Wearmouth, both before, during and after WWII.  After her training she begins working in a children’s ward and gets engaged to a soldier, Alan Price, who was later killed in the war. When the hospital rearranges staff, she is sent to work in a prisoner of war’s ward.  This change forces Theda to develop professionally and personally as she cares for the German soldiers. As a co-worker develops feelings for Theda, this becomes the central relationship of the book.


What were the highlights? 

Theda’s character shows the determination, compassion and courage of a nurse who is trying to live a complete life — both with a thriving career and deep relationships — in an era overshadowed by war. The familial relationships are well-written, highlighting the complicated emotions and loyalty that exist between a parent and a child and between siblings. The most poignant moment in the book is the Christmas party on the ward. The author presents both the good in humanity, as children receive hand-carved toys from the prisoners of war from the other ward, and the ignorance of caustic hatred. 

Strengths & weaknesses:

The plot is driven largely by relationships between characters. The excitement, uncertainty, joy and misunderstandings of romantic relationships, keep the story from becoming too heavy with the sorrows and responsibilities of a wartime nurse. However, I would have preferred to have seen more of Theda’s emotions and struggles, such as when she lost Alan and when she was nursing enemy soldiers. Loss is universal, and healthy grieving is important. Likewise, a deeper exploration of how a nurse handles a situation in which he or she has to overcome bias in order to give the best possible care is just as necessary today as it was then.   

Who should read it? 

Anyone who enjoys a light and engaging historical romance or is interested in period nursing, will find this novel interesting and entertaining. Since the plot is easy to follow, it is perfect for reading as a break after a long shift.


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Successful Mentoring in Nursing

12 July, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: Successful Mentoring in Nursing

Authors: Liz Aston & Paula Hallam

Publisher: Learning Matters Ltd, 2011

Reviewer: Mrs Candy Cooley, national genetics awareness programme manager, NHS National Genetics Education & Development Centre

What was it like?

This book is designed to support the mentor how to develop the skills and knowledge of a “good” mentor. There is early acknowledgement in the book that while most students, and now qualified staff, can remember mentors who may have inspired them and developed them as excellent practitioners, there are also memories of mentors who have shown little interest in them as students. The book begins with a definition of where mentoring came from and how it has developed within nursing from the ENB definition in 1989 as student selected to befriend, advise and counsel the student but not assess them.  Then in 2001 this was revised by the ENB and DH as a mentor being someone who facilitates learning, and more recently in 2006 and 2008 the NMC set guidelines and standards for the role of the mentor with a “live” register for mentors undertaking the ten-day preparation programme.


This title , within the nine chapters, also discusses some key areas from dealing with challenging students to adopting a lifelong approach to mentoring. Each chapter begins with the NMC mentor domain and the NHS knowledge and skills framework levels. It also has specific aims for each section and a summary of the chapter. In a way the book achieves two things, support for the mentor and ways of acting as a role model for practice and secondly giving practical ways for getting the best from the student.

What were the highlights? 

This is an inclusive guide for professionals aiming to be part of the mentor programme. A series of case studies and activities build a comprehensive manual to support the mentorship programme.

Strengths & weaknesses:

This book contains a number of case studies and activities, which make it interesting and interactive. It is particularly good that the answers to the activities are found at the end of each section. Each chapter flows but can be used in isolation if the mentor wishes to develop specific areas of their practice. There is a comprehensive reference list at the end of the book, although it is sometimes hard to find the chapter they relate to. In places the number of activities mid text can make reading the book a little disjointed.

Who should read it?

It is aimed specifically at mentors but could also be used by students who want to ensure they are receiving the most appropriate support from their mentor. It can also be helpful to all health professionals supporting students in practice.

How To Get Better Value Healthcare

12 July, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: How To Get Better Value Healthcare

Author: J A Muir-Gray

Publisher: Offox Press for Better Value Healthcare Ltd

Reviewer: Anne Cooper, national clinical lead for nursing, Department of Health Informatics Directorate

What was it like?

This book is about the concept of healthcare value and how we can derive more value from our investment in health services. It explores the concept of value from the perspectives of payers of services, patients, clinicians, managers, industry and the public. 

It’s a short read but is packed with information and pulls together a range of complex subjects such as programme budgeting, the meaning of “drift” in connection with benefits, methods to allocate resources and contextualises patient opinion as part of the value of services. It’s not for the faint hearted – it’s a serious book – but an invaluable read for nurses who may be working in leadership roles, management or commissioning. It cites ten top questions that we should ask if our aim is to increase value.

Despite the complexity of some of the content, it’s well structured, with a clear framework and approach, in easy chunks. Each section concludes with content created as a tool to use for networks as part of their development.  I enjoyed some of the stories the author tells to illustrate key points. 


What were the highlights? 

As we move to an environment where clinical networks become vital in ensuring we continue to improve the way we deliver care, this book would be a useful tool for network development activities.  It’s thought provoking and helps the reader to focus hard on the real challenges we face in healthcare in the decades to come.

It’s up to date, taking account of the current global financial climate. It also encourages thinking about waste in a broader environmental impact context – an important consideration for our thinking today.

The last section is a great aide memoire re-covering the main points of the book for practical application. The book concludes with the message that in order to meet the challenges we face, we require “leadership of the highest order”.  The final section about leadership is challenging and thought provoking.

Strengths & weaknesses:

The practical sections that act as an aide memoire are really useful. The book is not a light read and is for those who have a serious interest in commissioning and planning services.

Who should read it?

An must read for nurses involved in commissioning and also a recommended read for senior nurses involved in networks and in senior leadership positions. 

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