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Book club: your reviews

All posts from: September 2012

Fundamentals of pharmacognosy and phytotherapy second edition

26 September, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: Fundamentals of pharmacognosy and phytotherapy second edition

Authors: Michael Heinrich, Joanne Barnes, Simon Gibbons and Elizabeth M Williamson

Publisher: Churchill Livingstone, 2012

Reviewer: Peter Houghton, emeritus professor in pharmacognosy, Kings College London

What was it like?

This book is a revised version of the ground-breaking undergraduate textbook first published in 2004 which combined phytotherapy, the therapeutic aspects of medicinal plants, with pharmacognosy, the more classical study of medicinal plants and their constituents, which deals with botanical and chemical aspects. The book is divided into five sections consisting of an introduction, then one dealing with botanical aspects including classical morphology but also systematics and ethnopharmacology. The next section deals with the chemistry of plant constituents and the final two sections cover herbal medical systems and overviews of medicinal plants arranged therapeutically.

What were the highlights? 

Considerable updating has taken place to include recent developments in research, particularly clinical evidence for reputed activity. The chapter on plant chemistry is especially good because it is clear, concise and comprehensive. The section detailing medicinal plants arranged according to their therapeutic use provides a more familiar port of entry to information than would be the case for those unfamiliar with chemical matters.   ..

Strengths & weaknesses:

The layout of the book is pleasant and illustrations are clear and add value to the text.

This book gives a good comprehensive treatment of a multidisciplinary area of knowledge and will be especially useful to nurses and  members of related professions,  who are increasingly likely to encounter patients taking the medicinal plants and derived products mentioned., often in conjunction with orthodox medication, but are unlikely to have been taught much about them in their university courses. This book will help to ascertain the benefits and limitations, even hazards, of such material from a scientific standpoint. This is particularly valuable in light of the amount of misinformation and half-truths, which exist about these products in the popular press and other media.

It is difficult to identify any serious weakness in this book but the omission of a section or chapter dealing with naturally derived drugs of abuse is surprising since these are widely used and often encountered as a complication in treating disease.  Another quibble is the inclusion of a chapter on anticancer natural products in the chemistry section. Although it is true that natural products underlie many drugs used in oncology, my contention is that this chapter would be better placed in the therapeutic sections. 

Who should read it?

I consider this book excellent value for money. Although primarily intended for pharmacy students, this is the best text in English for those studying to be nursing practitioners because of its scientific approach to complementary medicine, particularly therapies that use plant material for example herbalism, aromatherapy and  homeopathy. Much of the material will be also of interest to the intelligent layperson as well as to those at postgraduate level who wish to gain background knowledge in this fascinating area of research and practice. 

Towards the Emancipation of Patients: Patients' Experiences and the Patient Movement

26 September, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: Towards the Emancipation of Patients: Patients’ Experiences and the Patient Movement

Author: Charlotte Williamson

Publisher: The Policy Press, 2010

Reviewer: Adam Fitzgerald, staff nurse

What was it like?

Towards the Emancipation of Patients: Patients’ Experiences and the Patient Movement is an in-depth insight into the patient movement and how the health services have adjusted (or attempted) to adjust to patient choice.


What were the highlights? 

Charlotte Williamson presents a compelling read. As an OBE and an ex vice-chair of York Health Authority, she is able to present information that is interesting to  a lay person to read it with an interest in patient rights, but also  provides empirical and scholarly evidence for those reading for professional reasons.

Strengths & weaknesses:

One of the main strengths of this book is the sheer amount of evidence and studies referenced within the book. In addition there is a brilliant reference section and glossary that you can read further to understand some of the more complex terms. As the book is on quite an in-depth and complex subject, the author effectively breaks down the book into manageable chapters. Each chapter begins with a quote relating to its content and appears to sum up what the author is aiming to say within the chapter. Although even by the author’s own admission she compares the power gap between medical professionals and patients. She believes that at ground level  health professionals give patients the options however, she contends this is still limited by organisational limitations. Williamson also notes the use of (sometimes radical) patient groups to change this.

Who should read it?

Although this book could be read by a lay person, I feel that it would have to be someone that has a large interest in the patient movement because it is informative but sometimes hard to digest. I would suggest those involved with strategic choices and ward/practice managers would get the most use of this book.

Initial Management of Acute Medical Patients A Guide for Nurses and Healthcare Practitioners 2nd Edition

26 September, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: Initial Management of Acute Medical Patients A Guide for Nurses and Healthcare Practitioners 2nd Edition

Edited by: Ian Wood and Michelle Garner

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell 2012

Reviewer: Angela Colosi, consultant nurse for advanced practice ESHT / urgent care nurse practitioner SEH

What was it like?

This clearly presented book covers the assessment and management of the acutely ill medical patient in the first 24 hours of admission to hospital. Chapters are arranged into broad topics such as Sudden Death, Cardiac Arrest and the Vulnerable Adult rather than specific body systems or disease pathology. Its holistic approach reflects the fact that patients are living longer with multiple co-morbidities and therefore makes this an interesting and topical presentation. Although this book only covers the basic principles of assessment and management, its depth is sufficient to provide nurses with enough information to assess and act on the patient’s condition. It gives an outline of the use of physical assessment with differential diagnoses and treatment regimes that will appeal to primary care nurses as well as those in secondary care. Although possibly not as detailed as a large medical text, it draws on current literature and guidelines to provide an excellent nursing reference.


What were the highlights? 

Important features of this book include the section on the Vulnerable Adult and the relevance of the contributors’ roles to the subject matter. It also provides a systematic and clear approach to assessment and management of acute conditions.

Strengths & weaknesses:

Strengths of this book include:

·        A clear layout using boxes and tables to summarise key facts.

·        A broad appeal for nurses and practitioners working in a variety of settings and at varying levels of practice.

·        Use of scenarios and exercises that encourage critical thinking.

·        Current and extensive referencing.

There are minimal weaknesses to this text, although advanced practitioners or those working within a specialism may need to consult medical texts for detailed or specialist information as this book does not cover all body systems, specialities or disease pathology. 

Who should read it?

Even though aimed at nurses and healthcare practitioners working in the acute sector, I would suggest that this book will be equally appealing to those working in primary care and the community setting whose aim it is to keep patients in their home settings while recognising and managing exacerbations of their conditions. I would also suggest that this book would appeal to junior members of staff as a source of new knowledge, but also to the advanced practitioner as an excellent update and clinical reference. 


The Bleeding Disease

19 September, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: The Bleeding Disease

Author: Stephen Pemberton

Publisher: The John Hopkins University Press, 2011

Reviewer: Candy Cooley, national genetics awareness programme manager

What was it like?

This book is written to explain the unintended medical consequences of treating haemophilia within the US during the late 1950’s, 1960’s,1970’s and 1980’s. The book is written by a man who came to work in a laboratory setting by chance and clearly inspired by the director of the laboratory, a pioneer in haemophilia treatment, wanted to explain the history of haemophilia treatment. And while the book looks “old” the information within it is shockingly relevant to the rapid development of ‘new’ treatments today.

The book reminds us that until the 1960/70’s haemophilia was a disease that caused acute physical damage and death. There was a push to help people with haemophilia to be “normal” as many were stigmatised within society. The development of concentrated blood products revolutionised the treatment particularly of boys and men who were categorised as “severe haemophiliacs”. Unfortunately by the 1980’s nine out of ten of these individuals had acquired a HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) from these blood products.


Towards the end of the 1950’s there was a dip in the number of “volunteer” blood donors despite community campaigns. For many parents of children with haemophilia this was a distressing time with media claims of low resources. It is therefore not surprising that the development of  Cryoprecipitate in 1964 was hailed as a major development and that it would be “so safe and stable” that people with haemophilia would be able to “carry it around and inject themselves”, the drive for “normalcy” continuing. As collecting blood just for plasma meant that the donors were not anaemic that could donate more often and because the process was lengthy the donors were paid for their time.

A mix of corporate interests, poor government decisions, the fear of stigma and AIDS denial amongst experts led to the health of the US blood supply being compromised in a lethal way. Production of cryoprecipitate was big business in the early 1980’s with many laboratories producing their “version” with little control. And people with haemophilia were often unaware of the consequences that the “experts” were beginning to realise. There was also strong opposition to banning or screening of homosexual men, who were blood donors, as it was considered to be Human Rights discrimination.

The conclusion of the book is a balanced consideration of the choices for parents and the individuals with haemophilia had to take. It also looks at the scientists and clinicians for whom the development of “cure’s” and treatment for this disease was core to their lives. It also looks at the responsibilities of governments and drug safety agencies and their role in ensuring this situation does not occur again.

What were the highlights? 

It is a really good review of the historical developments of medicine within a particular clinical condition, but also gives and insight into the culture of society and medical development of this period. 

Strengths & weaknesses:

Once over the rather unappetising front cover this is a good “read”. It is rather text heavy and the 50 plus pages of “Notes to pages” at the back is daunting but it is worth reading.

Who should read it?

General readers, haemophilia nurses, people interested in treatment developments and the damage medical “care” can unintentionally cause.



Evidence and Skills for Normal Labour and Birth; a guide for midwives. Second edition

18 September, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: Evidence and Skills for Normal Labour and Birth; a guide for midwives

Author: Denis Walsh

Publisher: Routledge

Reviewer: Greta McGough, freelance writer, retired university lecturer

What was it like?

This is the second (and revised) edition of a useful textbook for midwives, which offers both student and qualified midwives a chance to consider their role and to reflect upon practice. The emphasis throughout is on the promotion of ”normal” labour, and the ways to avoid iatrogenesis.


What were the highlights? 

There are several highlights to this book. These include the realistic scenarios used throughout the book, to illustrate points and to argue for reflection. These are not dramatic in content and the reader is left with a sense of calm practicality by the author. The questions for reflection that are included at the end of each chapter bring a greater depth to the chapter summaries, but also carry the reader forward.

Strengths & weaknesses:

One of the main strengths of this book is its emphasis throughout on the “being with” aspect of midwife, as opposed to the tradition of “doing to” during labour. While this discussion is not new, we still need to continue in that direction, so as to avoid the problems that care “arranged for the benefit of the system, not the mother” can be re-structured to provide an all-round better experience. The references and appendices that support this are also excellent, up-to-date and very wide-ranging, supporting the discussion.

There are no real weaknesses in this book, which is structured and organised so that all aspects of the care offered to women are honestly and realistically reflected, with many opportunities to carry discussion further and deeper. The author highlights and discusses the changes in practice that have arisen because of changing government policy, but of course it is difficult to combat these, beyond revising and streamlining practice.

Who should read it?

This excellent book should be read by all midwifery students, but also has a huge application for qualified midwives everywhere and in every part of the country. Like the earlier edition, it looks set to become a classic text for midwives at all levels.


Handbook of Service User Involvement in Nursing & Heathcare Research

17 September, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: Handbook of Service User Involvement in Nursing & Heathcare Research

Authors: E Morrow, A Boaz, S Brearley, F Ross

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012

Reviewer: Sue Southworth, research nurse, Ophthalmology

What was it like?

This is a useful book to take one through the processing of planning and implementing user involvement in health research. This is managed in a logical and ordered way without becoming prescriptive or dictatorial.

There are occasions where a little more prescription may be appreciated but perhaps this would have ultimately spoiled the book. This book will help you explore how to plan service user involvement but it will not provide templates for you to copy.


Is it detailed enough, or is it too in-depth? Which sections did you enjoy? How well written is it and how accessible?

What were the highlights? 

This is comprehensive exploration of the issues surrounding service user involvement in health research.

Strengths & weaknesses:

Each section within the book can stand alone and therefore, the book does not necessarily need to be read from cover to cover. For those completely new to the issues around service user involvement, however, this may be a good idea.

The book is clearly written with pertinent examples drawn from real life. The index is clear and easy to use. The title appears designed to exclude doctors by the specific mention of Nursing. This seems a shame as all health researchers could gain from reading this book

Who should read it?

Anyone involved or wanting to become involved in service user involvement in research would find plenty to inspire and challenge in this book.

Long-term conditions. A guide for nurses and healthcare professionals

13 September, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: Long-term conditions. A guide for nurses and healthcare professionals

Edited by: Sue Randall and Helen Ford

Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2011

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

What was it like?

This great book seems to have covered long-term conditions from every perspective with an easy to follow index enabling you to find specific subjects without the need to search or read the whole book in one go.


What were the highlights? 

The book is divided into three sections covering living with a long-term condition, empowerment and care management with ten chapters all written by different authors or co-authors. This can mean that a book can seem disjointed when written in this way but this is not the case with this book because the same format and language is used with case studies including points for reflection, group work, references, a summary, conclusion, suggested further reading and resources.

Strengths & weaknesses:

The strengths of this book lie within the extensive references, which are listed at the end of each chapter rather than at the back of the book, making it more straight forward to trace original work and allowing the reader to explore areas of interest to them more easily.

I was pleased to see references to relevant NICE guidance, up to date treatments and equipment including telecare.

The section on end of life care is excellent and clearly describes all the tools available for staff to use including the Liverpool care pathway, the Gold Standards Framework and the preferred priorities for care.

My only disappointment in reading this book was the lack of any discussion of the advantages of working with voluntary organisations to provide shared care in true partnerships, for example Age UK, Crossroads or the British Red Cross. This aspect could easily have been included in the care management section and would have reminded readers of the wealth of care options provided by the voluntary sector.

Who should read it?

All healthcare professionals who treat or care for patients with long term conditions should read this book whether they are working in primary, secondary, tertiary care, for the NHS, a hospice, social services or a voluntary organisation.

Aging together: Dementia, friendship & flourishing communities

12 September, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: Aging together: Dementia, friendship & flourishing communities

Authors: McFadden SH & McFadden JT

Publisher: The John Hopkins University Press 2011

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

What was it like?

The thesis of the authors, one an academic psychologist and the other, a senior pastor of “large liberal congregations”, is that it is possible, necessary and rewarding to have meaningful relationships with people who are, “travelling the dementia road”.  In this book they argue that dementia should not be seen as an individual tragedy but should be seen as an experience of personal change occurring within communities. They remind readers that the lives of those who struggle with memory loss have worth and value and that they should remain and be part of flourishing communities. The authors acknowledge that this is not a “how to” book but instead gives some information on the projected growth of dementia in American communities in the coming years, names the types of dementia and then begins to discuss some of the shortcomings of biological models of dementia. They caution against bio-medical descriptions of decline and deterioration that lose sight of people living with these diagnoses. They invite readers to reflect upon the implications of receiving such a diagnosis and on the fear and anxiety that people have at the prospect and consequences  of a diagnosis. The book develops the thesis that too many people with dementia suffer fear of abandonment, dependency and exclusion. It argues that peace, compassion and love can replace this fear only in the context of flourishing communities; they exhort involvement of religious fellowships, service clubs, sports leagues (church communities, voluntary bodies and youth clubs in UK parlance?) to invite and welcome people who have dementia. They contend that these attitudes are culturally acquired; perhaps their point is best illustrated by the Taiwanese person who came to study medicine in the US who said that she did not know her grandfather was sick before she came to study in America; “he just changed but he was still grandfather”.


What were the highlights? 

One particular highlight of the book is the use of vignette to illustrate points and give insight: these are readable and useful. There is an absence of, what may be termed, technical jargon and the language is accessible.

Strengths & weaknesses:

At the end of the book there are suggested questions on each chapter to promote thought and discussion. The book is written for an American audience and, not unnaturally, makes many such social, cultural and political references that may not transfer easily to other audiences. Some may find many points could have been developed and arrived at more succinctly.

Who should read it?

Anyone who wants to teach, practise or encourage person-centred care for people with dementia will find a lot in this book. However, it is difficult to be more specific than that; it seems also to be directed at community groups, church congregations and, perhaps social groupings; it is not made entirely clear.

Perioperative Practice

11 September, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: Perioperative Practice

Author: The Association for Perioperative Practice and Synergy Health

Publisher: The Association for Perioperative Practice, 2011

Reviewer: Allison Crocker, theatre practitioner, Poole General Hospital

What was it like?

The book is a pocket-sized guide intended to act as an aide memoire to all staff working within the theatre environment. It covers the full range of duties within the operating department from anaesthesia through the surgical procedure and into recovery. While no part of the process is covered in depth, there is adequate coverage of the steps that a patient takes as they move through the surgical process. As a newly qualified nurse, I found the section on recovery, my current area of work, to be particularly useful. Although the book is not a substitute for a specialist text book, the portability allows for it to be carried at all times soif you need to quickly check a fact you have the book handy. This title does not provide a substitute for the underpinning knowledge required of the practitioner but serves as a useful prop to aid them in daily practice. The fact that the writing style employed is succinct and to the point allows for vital facts to be found quickly and assimilated efficiently. This is further aided by the clarity of the writing and appropriate use of figures or diagrams. Authorship of the book by the professional body of theatre practitioners adds a level of authenticity to its content allowing the reader to place their confidence fully in what they read.


What were the highlights? 

The highlight of the book for me was the way it found itself in use on a regular basis. The portability of the book and the evident authority of its content meant that it became an important part of my armoury.

Strengths & weaknesses:

Only one major weakness could be identified and this may be personal to me. The form factor of the book made it awkward to carry around in the pocket of scrubs surely the place that such a guide should reside in.

Who should read it?

The book will prove ideal for the student operating department practioner or nurse as they orient themselves to a theatre environment allowing them to quickly fact check or reaffirm knowledge of a procedure they are about to participate in. It will also prove useful to newly qualified practitioners as they ease their way from the world of academia to the world of work. It can be seen that as a practitioner’s experience grows it may become less useful.

Intensive Care Nursing: a framework for practice (third edition)

11 September, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: Intensive Care Nursing: a framework for practice (3rd edition)

Author: Philip Woodrow

Publisher: Routledge

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


What was it like?

This text covers all areas of patient care in the intensive care setting covering theory, skills and knowledge. It is written by experienced critical care staff with many years’ experience of working in a critical care environment. There are 10 sections of the book, which cover all major body systems such as respiratory, abdominal, cardiovascular and neurological. The text also covers professional issues and technical areas such as invasive and non-invasive monitoring and fundamental aspects of care of the patient in the critical care environment such as pain management, care of the ventilated patient and sedation. There is a list of abbreviations, glossary and index that make the text user friendly and accessible. The text is well referenced and up to date with current clinical practice.


What were the highlights? 

The chapters have sections including fundamental knowledge required, implications for practice, further reading and a chapter summary along with well referenced and up-to-date content. The text is complemented by illustrations and tables. It provides a comprehensive text of all fundamental areas of intensive care nursing for those who are new to working in a critical care area or for those undertaking academic work and requiring a reference text.

Strengths & weaknesses:

The book is user-friendly and easy to read as it is well organised and set out in a logical manner. Each chapter contains a list of further suggested reading if a more in-depth knowledge is required. There is also a set of clinical questions that assist in checking knowledge and understanding. The clinical questions are relevant and appropriate and help to highlight the key areas of the content of the chapter along with the implications for practice and the summary sections.  

Who should read it?

This book would be useful for nurses and other allied health professionals who are new to the critical care environment or those undertaking post registration courses. It would also be beneficial to those looking after high dependency patients outside of the intensive care setting.

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