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Book club: your reviews

All posts from: August 2012

Introduction to Mental Health- Substance Use

30 August, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: Introduction to Mental Health- Substance Use

Edited by: David B Cooper

Publisher: Radcliffe Publishing, 2011

Reviewer: Carol Cooper, senior lecturer in mental health nursing, Sheffield Hallam University

What was it like?

This is the first book in a series of six and as it says, it is an introduction to the topic. Although edited by David Cooper and thoroughly enjoyed by me, Carol Cooper, we are not related - or at least not to my knowledge.

The book begins with a discussion of the careful use of terminology in this topic. The main point being that substance use is not always a problem and covers a wide variety of substances, a good and salient reminder I thought. This title says it aims to highlight best practice today, challenge concepts and stimulate debate.


It is divided into 14 chapters, beginning with setting the scene, learning to learn, dual diagnosis and terminology. It then moves on to consider Kate’s journey and reminds the reader that professionals are merely guests in people’s lives. Another important reminder. The next chapters consider the topics of racism, physical health, the experience of illness, psychological impacts and working with people. The book culminates in chapters on skills, capabilities and professional development, attitudes and brief training interventions, ethics, brain injury and finally heatwave. The latter being a topic I had rarely considered in relation to its effect on clients.

There are key points for learning placed at strategic points throughout the text and I certainly found it thought provoking.

What were the highlights? 

The book appears to meet its intended aims. It certainly made me think about how I view this client group. It also made me reconsider some of the commonly used terminology and consider alternative viewpoints, most of which were presented in a very client centred and easily understandable yet engaging format. One sentence that stood out for me was ” The most difficult to treat individuals often need the most help”. This is a powerful reminder to those professionals struggling with clients.

Strengths & weaknesses

This title is full of thought- provoking information and is easily readable, however, I found reading the book cover to cover difficult. The chapters did not seem to have a flow and as such it is probably better to dip into depending on your area of interest.

Who should read it?

Although I am an experienced mental health nurse (but by no means a specialist in substance use) I learnt lots and also had many useful reminders of things I knew but had forgotten. It is probably best used to dip into and as such, could be useful for many differing audiences from students through to professionals who come into contact with individuals with mental health problems and want to know more about the impact of substance use on their clients.



Catching Babies

29 August, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: Catching Babies

Author: Sheena Byrom

Publisher: Headline, 2011

Reviewer: Carlson Coogler, English and medical student


What was it like?

As readers follow the development of the author’s career, they learn along with Sheena that “satisfaction in midwifery came from doing less to individuals and doing more with them.” Funny and serious anecdotes show how tea, baths and listening to concerned moms are important empowerment tools. As Sheena witnesses the wonder of new life, marvels at the endurance and strength of mums, and fights for equality in healthcare, readers get the chance to share in some of the rewards of supporting and witnessing the everyday beauty of birth. 

What were the highlights? 

As is fitting for a book written by a midwife, the central highlight and strength is the portrayal of extraordinary midwifes and resilient women. I particularly liked the depiction of Carla, an Italian midwife who treated her colleagues to food and hand-knitted booties; Mrs Quinn, a midwife whose ideas for bettering care were ahead of her time; and, Jill, a farmer’s wife who fed cows during her contractions because her work was not yet done. I also thought the description of how Nadia and Paul, a couple with a stillborn baby, learned to heal their grief through service was lovely. My favorite moment, however, was the presentation of a signature list to the author in the midst of litigation.  Signed by mothers and community members, it showed the impact caring midwifery can have on the lives of women and the trust that results from this relationship.  

Strengths & weaknesses:

Perhaps because of the consistent witnessing of new life and death, the writing style is often emotional. Though not seriously off-putting, it did cause me to read it in smaller increments. As already mentioned, the characters and stories from her career are a real strength. Because of the breadth and complexity of careers, memoirs can tend to be uncentered.  But, Sheena’s constant dedication for supporting and empowering mothers keeps Catching Babies from falling into this fault. 

Who should read it?

I would recommend this book to anyone who is a midwife or is interested in studying midwifery.  I also think anyone who is interested in fighting for changes in the status quo or in empowering women in healthcare situations will find the anecdotes inspiring. 


The Neuro Care Manual – A guide to neurology for nurses and family carers

28 August, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: The Neuro Care Manual – A guide to neurology for nurses and family carers

Author: Steve Smith

Publisher: Health Harmony 2011

Reviewer: Debbie Quinn, MS specialist nurse, Northamptonshire Healthcare foundation Trust

What was it like?

The book is divided into five main easy-to-read sections: basic anatomy and physiology, diagnoses, shared aspects, more issues and big decisions. This book tries hard to meet its target audience of nurses and carers and while the anatomy and physiology and diagnoses sections manage this quite well, it fails to continue to do this in the latter sections of the book, which is far more relevant to both formal and informal carers. The author gives many examples of his own experiences that at times were useful but appear to be too frequent and required much more factual support.  Many of these examples are from the author’s experiences in residential/nursing homes, which is where formal carers may well gain the most.


What were the highlights? 

The broken-down sections allow the reader to dip in and out of the book as required. It does provide an easy-to-read quick starting guide to neurology as a whole. The anatomy and physiology section would be useful to anyone finding general neurology a bit of a blur as it clearly and simply explains the working of the central nervous system and brain.

Strengths & weaknesses:

The book, in places, makes the reader pause for thought and reflect on their care of people with neurological conditions, recognising some of the general mistakes that can be made.

Some of the terminology contained within the book is dated, for example: incontinence nurses and a few of the sections, despite the author stressing their importance are very brief with little useful referral systems such as communication and continence. It would have benefited from offering the reader examples of when to refer to other professional groups such as occupational therapists to assist with activities of daily living and speech therapists for communication difficulties.

Who should read it?

This book would be most useful to both formal and informal carers and nursing students who are wishing to gain a quick overview of neurological conditions and care.